Czech children spend a considerable part of their first year at school learning to write, more so than their contemporaries in Britain or France. That’s because in Czech handwriting joined-up letters are very different from printed letters, with an emphasis on perfectly formed, slanted letters with lots of loops and twirls. Now, it looks like learning to write may become easier. A young Czech graphic artist has come up with a new set of letters, based on printed letters rather than the cursive style:
Czech school children basically have to distinguish four different types of letters. Capital and small print and capital and small cursive. When learning to write, teachers often insist that they follow a strict pattern: letters must be slanted to the right, perfectly formed and linked-up without lifting pen from paper. But as they grow up and write faster, children tend to scrawl and their handwriting often becomes illegible. Radana Lencová is a graphic artist and the author of the new script:
“Nobody uses the handwriting they learnt at school in its full form, especially capital letters with loops and connecting strokes between individual letters. When children follow the model they were taught in first grade, it works fine. But when it is not observed and they concentrate more on the loops and the strokes rather than on the letter itself, the writing becomes illegible. That’s why isolated letters are easier to read.”
The alphabet Lencová has created – so called Comenia Script – is not based on an accurate imitation of a given model. It is important that children notice the basic proportion of the letters, but it is up to them how they write them.
“My alphabet is based on the so called Humanist Cursive, where letters are not joined-up. But they do have connecting strokes so when they are put side by side, it does look a bit like joined-up writing. So the alphabet has a handwritten, elegant style.”
The first official testing of the new Comenia Script has already taken place in several schools. One of them is Škola Hrou in Prague’s district of Břevnov. Its director Ivana Málková says she welcomed the possibility to test the new script:
“I have been teaching first graders for several years and I think the original form of joined-up writing is a useless activity, because children don’t use it when they grow up. I am glad parents have accepted the new style and children learn to form letters that are very much like the letters they know from books. The letters that I have been teaching until now become illegible when they are deformed. With these letters, even if the kids write the letter “a” the other way round, I can still read it.”
The testing has shown that children find the Comenia Script much easier to learn than the classic joined-up writing and as of the beginning of the next school year, another 80 schools will join the programme. It is very likely that in a few years’ time, the Czech term “krasopis” or penmanship will be a thing of the past.