Jan 17th 2011

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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?
Fortunately, there are many online resources available to help students spell correctly. For those who learn through memorization, there are several different lists of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language. For kids and those who seek fun ways to learn, there are many games, online and otherwise, that are designed to help students improve their spelling.
When it comes to writing, the spell corrector is an invaluable tool. By allowing the student to write freely, focusing on content without being overly concerned about how he or she spells each and every word, automatic spell checkers facilitate easier writing for native and non-native speakers alike. As a tool for learning, spell corrector also offer advantages, such as immediate feedback and instant self-correction.
One educational tool for learning and improving spelling abilities is dictation. By transcribing a dictated text, a student’s listening comprehension can be evaluated, as well as his ability to understand grammar constructs. The old fashioned technique of sounding out words – breaking down words into individual syllables – can help, along with the teaching of prefixes and suffixes.
For any student of the English language, spelling is an essential part of mastering the new tongue. While it can be challenging, spelling is easy to learn if you know how, and many tools are available to help students out.

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6 Responses to “Why is it Spelled that Way?”

  1. Wimpy on May 1st, 2011

    Very true! Makes a cahgne to see someone spell it out like that. :)

  2. Daisy on May 3rd, 2011

    Yes I agree that “spelling is an essential part of mastering the new tongue” especially for non-native English speaker like me.

  3. John on May 30th, 2011

    Your explanation of the difficulties in spelling English words for non-natives brought to mind an observation from George Bernard Shaw. He pronounced the word “fish,” and then spelled it “ghoti.” (“gh” as in enough, “o” as in women, and “ti” as in nation.)

    His comment on not ending a sentence with a preposition: “That’s the kind of nonsense up with which I cannot put.”

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