Yearly Archives: 2011

Jan 18th 2011

Grammar Check: American versus British English

When performing an online grammar check, it is important to note if the language you are using is American or British English. Believe it or not, there is a subtle but significant difference between them.

According to Wikipedia, “Received Pronunciation (RP), also called the Queen’s (or King’s) English, Oxford English, or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms.”
Wikipedia defines American English as “a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States,” and notes that around two-thirds of the people in the world that speak English as native language live in the United States – making the American dialect the more common of the two.

As a former British colony, the United States inherited English in the same way that Latin America inherited Spanish and Portuguese. However, over the years, American and British English have diverged in accent, spelling and vocabulary. A student of one will likely understand the other without too much additional effort, but should be aware of the differences that exist in literature, slang, pronunciation, letter writing and so on.

In the United States, students are generally taught American English, with little or no reference to the English spoken in the United Kingdom. Students of English as a Second Language (ESL), as well as native-speaking high school students in English class, may have only minimal knowledge of the differences between the two dialects.
English students in the US are taught the language using a variety of tools, including listening exercises, speaking and interviewing techniques and English games. One such game is called a “spelling bee.” Also used to teach grade school children how to spell, spelling bees are contests in which participants compete over who can spell the greatest number of words correctly. As the English language is full of exceptions, and spelling is often not done phonetically, learning how to spell correctly is a key part of growing comfortable with the language for non-native speakers.

Even for native speakers, the differences between American and British English can be a source of amusement. Anyone who has ever witnessed a social encounter between Americans and Brits has probably seen first hand how humorous it can be for them to compare words, especially slang words, and phrases across the cultural divide. However, English students can take comfort in the fact that the differences between the two are not really that great.


Jan 17th 2011

Why is it Spelled that Way?


The invention of the automatic spell checker was no accident. Learning how to spell correctly in English can be a challenging process. Whereas in other languages, words are often spelled more or less like they sound, in English words are often spelled in ways that seem to have little in common with how they are pronounced.
Instead of learning a set of basic rules and applying them universally, students must deal with a variety of exceptions and linguistic idiosyncrasies which can often seem daunting.
Why, for example, are “hare” and “hair” spelled differently but pronounced the same? How is it that “food” and “good” are both spelled with a double “o,” yet are pronounced differently? What is the difference between “thorough” and “through,” and why do neither sound anything like “tough”? Why do words like “diaphragm” and “psychologist” contain letters that are not pronounced at all? And what about the spelling of words which were adopted from foreign languages, and do not obey any of the familiar rules of English spelling? (more…)


Jan 17th 2011

Teaching Grammar for ESL

When I started teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) I was told to incorporate grammar into my lessons, rather than teach it separately.  However, after teaching for a while, I realized that adult ESL students come from school systems that tend to teach grammar separately. Having always learned this way, ESL students expect to study grammar in isolation from other aspects of the language. They are used to such an approach, and it gives them a feeling of accomplishment.
Now, in my lesson plans, I teach grammar as a separate topic. I begin by presenting a specific grammar topic – for example, irregular past tense verbs – and then use these verbs in context, in games, in conversational activities and so on. Teaching this way is important, because grammar lessons tend to be very dry otherwise. (more…)


Jan 13th 2011

How To Spell

It would not be an exaggeration to think that, at one moment or another, every literate speaker of English in history had to wrestle with the question of how to spell a word that he or she knew perfectly in terms of its meaning and pronunciation. Such moments of minuscule (not miniscule) embarrassment (not embarassment) are so common at least in part because of a distinct feature of the English language.
This descriptive feature of English concerns what linguists call the ‘orthography’ of a language – its system of symbols and their rules of usage. English has a so-called “deep orthography”, also known as “defective orthography”. This means quite simply that there is no one-to-one mapping between its written signs and their sound in speech. And indeed, can we not also swap the direction of the question “How do you spell…” and find so many cases of “How do you pronounce…”?
The “depth” of the English orthography describes the possible independence between the spelling of a word and that word’s pronunciation. But what happens in terms of spelling when two words with different meanings are pronounced exactly the same? Or, conversely, when two words are pronounced differently but nevertheless have exactly the same spelling? Through these and similar confusions, we can see how in English a distinction arises between three elements, that has a bearing on words: their meaning, their spelling and their pronunciation. (more…)


Jan 12th 2011

Spelling Check


Error-free texts are always appreciated, if not downright expected. But although the products of clean and fluent writing demand skill and experience, many people today are under the impression that accomplishing this task should no longer be considered a problem. They believe that all one needs to do is to run a simple spelling check, and that should suffice.

The notion that spelling checkers are infallible is very questionable. And the troubling effect is that blindly adopting this view can tempt people to neglect to learn how to spell and edit their texts by themselves. This attitude is not problematic just because it makes people forget about the potency that only a thorough knowledge of language enables. It is also questionable because, in the first place, it assumes that writing is always done with electronic aids, which either have built-in spelling check features or can use resources online. Second, it presupposes that people actually use, and know how to use, spell check tools properly, without perhaps at times even making things worse. Finally, Spelling Check still rely on the users to input their queries and select their corrections. So, ultimately, the responsibility remains in the hands of the writers. (more…)


Jan 10th 2011

Spelling Correction and Learning to Spell

When we were children, just beginning to learn to read, write and spell words, we had to rely on teachers and parents to review our work and correct it. Quite similarly, children, students, non-native speakers, and people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, each for their specific purpose, may all require such assistance in order to spell a word or construct a sentence.
Today, when one wants to know how a word is spelled, one usually uses a computer. This sort of shift is having an important effect on the process of learning how to write and spell. It is true that for the purpose of reviewing a text, spell correctors and grammar checkers can be invaluable. Tools like these are highly available. They can be either accessed online, as in the case of online dictionaries or an online spell check, or built into a client’s word processor. The writers, for their part, can search for the tools and develop the techniques that they are comfortable with and which are better suited for them. (more…)


Jan 10th 2011

The Importance of Spelling Difficulties

Spelling, loosely defined, refers to the activity of forming words from letters, or, conversely, the process of naming the letters that form a word. Every conventional word in an alphabetical language has an acceptable, some say standard, way (or ways) of being spelled (or spelt). In linguistic terms, this means that it is a part of a specific orthography – a dynamic system of signs and rules that represent a language. So when we write, or generally engage in spelling words, what we are most often expected to answer to is the task of presenting their acceptable form. (more…)


Jan 9th 2011

Business English – Why Is It Important Today?

Business English is the general term used for English related to international commerce, finance and industry. In the global environment, it has become common for non-native English speakers to study business English as a specific tool, with the aim of interacting with English-speaking countries, or with companies that use English as a shared language. In this atmosphere, business English is what one is required of in order to join, communicate and compete in the international market. This is why the importance of good business English can no longer be underestimated in the age of the new global business market.

The English language is currently estimated as the third largest mother tongue in the world. However, it is unquestionably the first and most popular second-language. In fact, most of the information that circulates in our world – mail, radio, cable, internet, etc. – is in English. This language has become the working language or bridge language of our time. There is even a specific rubric for Language Skills in any standard résumé template, with the level of English generally being what is examined. This dominance plays a part in the wide range of effects of what is called globalization.

As a purpose-specific tool, the central goals of business English is to carry the message across and to reach agreement. This is why it demands a business-oriented English vocabulary and a bunch of skills. These skills can include English letter writing, delivering presentations, negotiating or plain small-talk. With this in mind, such skills are already considered to be a prerequisite of modern-day international cooperation, and an important key for global business.



Jan 9th 2011

Business Writing

Business writing skills are essential in today’s competitive work environment. Letter writing, email writing, texts for power point presentations and many other writing assignments that involve business writing skills are necessary, on a day to day basis, in every office. Business writing can be enhanced by an automatic English correction tool that offers grammar tips and corrections. (more…)


Jan 9th 2011

Disability Learning

Disability learning or learning disabilities are often not discovered until a later age. In such instances the learning disabled person may suffer from low self esteem. Difficulties in reading and writing are in no way an indication of a lower intelligence. On the contrary, many people with disability learning posses a higher than average intelligence. But unless they are aware of their LD problem people suffering from disability learning may become depressed and frustrated by their reading and writing difficulties.
Awareness of learning disorders is the first and perhaps the most important stage for the person that has disability learning. Awareness is the key to rebuild self confidence for the learning disabled and to overcome learning disorders. Once the specific type of LD is determined the next stage is to find ways that will pave the way to improvement.
Providing the person with learning disabilities with the right tools that can aid her is another way to re-build confidence. Disability learning students can use context-sensitive online automatic correction tools in order get help reading and writing. (more…)