When they retire, most people slow down, relax and spend more time with family and friends. For author and former English instructor John J. Fulford, this phase of his life has exploded into writing books about his passion for English spelling, with the publication of his seminal work The Complete Guide to English Spelling Rules. The guide is the culmination of a life spent researching and perfecting English spelling rules while he taught grades K - 12 through college, adult education, and ESL (English as a Second Language) overseas.
Born in Spain to British parents – an English teacher and a war correspondent - John’s life has taken him to almost every continent - he has lived on four. Educated in England he migrated to Canada after a stint in the RAF and taught in a one-room school in the far north. He earned his B.Ed in Vancouver, taught in Canada then accepted a position teaching English in Barcelona.
Before Barcelona, John had taught spelling as it has been taught for generations – lists of words to be memorized, with even more lists of exceptions. It didn’t work.
“I discovered the problems that students have when they attempt to learn English. I decided that there had to be a more logical way and I began a lifelong study of the English spelling rules. When I returned to Canada I taught night school and found that my approach was very successful.”
He moved to Southern California, where he earned his M.A and married a fellow teacher. For their honeymoon they backpacked from Mexico City to Rio de Janeiro through all seventeen Latin American republics. When his wife returned to her teaching job, John remained in Bolivia travelling to every corner of that extraordinary country. He kept extensive notes and eventually wrote a history of Bolivia, To Reach the Sea, as well as a travel book, Last Plane to Cochabamba.
“When I finished my M.A I turned down an offer to study for a Ph.D., preferring to continue my research into English spelling rules. I took a position teaching in a district near Los Angeles that had a large number of immigrant Latin American students who had very limited English.”
After earning an ESL certificate, John spent the next twenty years researching the history of English, studying the works of Noah Webster, taking post graduate courses in linguistics, and putting his theories into practice with his non-English speaking students.
The culmination of his work is The Complete Guide to English Spelling Rules.
“This is the first and only book that has ever listed and explained all the rules that govern English spelling. It proves that there is a great deal of logic to English spelling and that there is a better way to learn how to spell than ineffective memorization.”
And to think, it only took two hundred years!