Spelling Myths vs Facts

i May 13th No Comments by

Spelling correctly is a skill that takes time and effort for everyone except the few who have very good visual memories. For most of us, seeing a word or reading it over and over is not enough to enable us to spell it correctly. We need to actively learn spelling.

Nevertheless many associate one’s ability to spell with their intelligence. In the same way that some people need to work harder than others to develop their reading and writing skills, spelling skills also take practice. This week we continue sharing some common spelling myths which many believe to be fact. If you’d like to see what you missed be sure to check our Facebook page: ALTA TT

MYTH: You make spelling mistakes because you don’t speak properly.

Both Creole English and Standard English pronunciation cause spelling mistakes. No accent or dialect has a particular advantage. Since the English spelling system is irregular and compels us to learn words visually (how they look) as well as how they sound, all English language learners are in the same position when learning to spell. No accent or dialect has a particular advantage. For example, people who pronounce ‘b a t h’ as ‘barth’ will have to visualise the word to eliminate the ‘r’ sound. People who pronounce ‘t h r e e’ as ‘tree’ will have to visualise the ‘h’.

FACT: Guessing at how to spell a word helps learning.

It’s important to understand that if we make a guess at how a word is spelled, even if it is wrong, we are attempting to apply to print what we know about the English language; that is, we are forming a hypothesis, or theory, about a spelling. This ‘having a theory’ about something makes us more likely to remember an amendment or correction to our guess than to remember a spelling we have never attempted. Thus guessing helps learning.

Less emphasis should be placed on correctness in spelling than on better guesses. Students who have significant spelling problems or who are beginner writers should be encouraged to invent spellings and then be given a correct version if the piece needs to be rewritten.

MYTH: When you are writing, you should stop at every word you cannot spell and look it up in the dictionary.

Dictionary skills are useful is some contexts, but of limited applicability with beginning spellers or students with spelling difficulties. Many students have had only frustrating experiences with dictionaries. If the student’s guess at a spelling puts him or her in the wrong section (for example, ‘inuff’ for ‘enough’), then a week spent in the ‘i’ section of the dictionary will only leave the student furious at words, writing and language in general. Dictionaries are useful, however, for students who are making minor spelling errors such as ‘independant’ for ‘independent’; ‘compleately’ for ‘completely’; ‘seperate’ for ‘separate’, etc.

Look out for the third segment of Spelling myths and facts in next week’s column. Look out for the ALTA Spelling Chart coming in June.

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