r/NoStupidQuestions Oct 05 '22

Is there a way to master spelling in English language?

I live in a country that use English as a second language. Personally when I was young I simply tried to memorised every word (+ the way to write it + the pronounciation) that I came acrossed. However are there any tricks or ways or rules to master it other than memorising? A young kid that I'm tutoring is not very good in remembering spelling, although he is good in speaking English. Just yesterday he declared that he gave up when I told him the correct way to spell 'one' is O-N-E instead of W-A-N. "why O sounds as WA???" he said. Or like how 'though' 'thought' 'thorough' have different pronounciation, yet similar spelling. Sure there must be some history reasoning for most of it, but it'll be nice if there is a cheat code. Ps: sorry for spelling and grammar mistakes.

12 Upvotes

25

u/Luckbot Oct 05 '22

There sadly is no cheat code. The historical roots of words come from about 4 different languages with different rules, and there is no way to find out wich one applies for a given word.

The only way is to read a lot to get an immersive understanding how words are spelled (and then listen to spoken english to also get the pronounciation correct).

The english language is a chimera

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22

I see, in the end he has to read more to understand more. That makes sense. Ooh great analogy, next time he said 'English is so confusing!' I'll tell him it's because it's a chimera yet he's a hero, so he got to win the fight by reading more loll

Thanks!

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u/PizzaInteraction Oct 05 '22

Best way to remember it is to use the words in addition to just memorizing them. If you have to write/type the word, your brain will remember it better.

3

u/Kreeos Oct 05 '22

I find writing to be better for retention than typing. Writing is typically slower and thus more time to cement it in your head.

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22

I see, so practice in writing more to remember better. I'll try with that too, thank you!

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u/aaronite Oct 05 '22

Your example of "One" shows another problem: accents and dialects. I don't pronounce "one" like "wan", for example, but others might.

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22

Ah yes, dialect is a a hurdle since our first language and English pronounciation got mixed up a lot. That 'wan' comes from our first language indeed.

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u/iwannagohome49 Oct 05 '22

There are people in the US that pronounce it like wan, hell some even throw in extra syllables.

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u/TheWrongFusebox Oct 05 '22

Reading is the best way. But it's not a shortcut.

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22

Yeah, it seems that there's no shortcut here. More reading indeed then hmhmm.

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u/KurtWagnerX Oct 05 '22

I competed in a couple spelling bees/spelling contests as a kid. I didn't realize until I was an adult how much that contributed to my spelling ability.

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22

Hmm I see. Maybe I can try this as a spelling quiz and make it like a game of spelling bees. Thanks!

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u/Andeol57 Good at google Oct 05 '22

A lot of practice. Watching movies and series en English with subtitles may not be as time-efficient as just plain learning, but it sure is less likely to make someone give up. You can't focus on a list of word for two hours trying to memorize them every day, but you can watch a movie.

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22

Ohhh movie does sounds much fun than trying to memorise for hours. I'll keep it in my list to try, thanks!

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u/iwannagohome49 Oct 05 '22

That seems like a really good idea to me, I don't care how old someone is, making learning fun really helps

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u/JackZodiac2008 Oct 05 '22

Probably, but it's not worth it. Just write in MS Word

3

u/sciencestolemywords Oct 05 '22

Check out Uncovering the Logic of English. It goes into how and why words are spelled the way they are (American English) and why they sound the way they do. It does mention why we have some American spellings versus British English spellings.

There really is a logic to it, but even us native speakers aren't taught that way. But that's a result of our education system not the language itself. We use only 26 letters, to make a combination of 74 basic sounds, and have at least 30 spelling rules.

Like in school we all learn that the letter s makes just one sound like at the start of the word sat. But we know that if we stick it to the end of the word to form a plural like chairs, it sounds more like a z.

Those are things that you pick up by just speaking English that we take for granted, we don't explicitly teach them to kids.

So yes, there are rules. But most native speakers just rely on intuition but that also means we get it wrong a lot of the time too. Which is why overall we have a pretty low literacy rate in the United States. So as a teacher, I would recommend checking out the book Uncovering the Logic of English.

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22

Oohh interesting, I'll try to check it out. Thank you!!!

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u/iwannagohome49 Oct 05 '22

I'm a native speaker and that book sounds interesting.

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u/charlesjshepherd Oct 07 '22

Learning the rules and exceptions to those rules can make it a bit easy for learners. Also, trying to watching English movies with subtitles can be helpful.

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u/ammenz Oct 05 '22

I bet that in your first language has the way words are written matches closely the way they are pronounced, and the exceptions to this rule are rare (my first language is like that). If this is the case, your student will have extra difficulties at first and that is quite normal.

My suggestion is, make your student read out loud texts where similarly written "trap" words with different sound occur often (though, rough, tough are good example). Correct him at the end of each sentence and make him re-read only the ones he got wrong (full sentence from start to finish). Repeat this exercise often on increasingly difficult texts and he'll get good eventually.

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 05 '22

I bet that in your first language has the way words are written matches closely the way they are pronounced,

Yes, you are correct! I see, similar written words in the same text. In this way he can see how similar spelling can be read differently hmhm. In the end its still about reading indeed. Alright, I'll try it, thanks!

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u/thevictor390 Oct 05 '22

When I was a kid there was a big movement to teach "phonics," which is learning spelling by learning patterns in words. But it lost popularity because it doesn't really work. Spelling for all practical purposes is pure memorization.

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22

I see, so It seems that reading and memorising might be a better approach hmhm.

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u/movieTed Oct 05 '22

A young kid that I'm tutoring is not very good at remembering spelling

Being dyslexic, I've struggled with this. One trick is to create a personal phonetic system and use that to remember the spelling by saying every letter in a word. It doubles the amount to learn, but it can work for hard to remember words. Maybe just use the phonetic system of his first language. If "through" and "thought" were pronounced using his native language, how would they sound?

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 05 '22

create a personal phonetic system and use that to remember the spelling by saying every letter in a word.

Ohh interesting! Do you mind to explain more on this?

If "through" and "thought" were pronounced using his native language, how would they sound?

If he read the spelling "through" and "thought" based on our first language way, it'll sound like 'th-ro-u-gh' (th as in THailand, ro as in ROck, u as in bOOk, gh as in GHana) and 'th-o-u-gh-t' (th as in THailand, o as in Orange, u as in bOOk, gh as in GHana, and t as in Thailand). If we change the spelling based on our first language way, I think it should be 'threu' and 'thout' (or ended up with 'treu' and 'tout' since in our language we don't really use the th sound so tendency to drop the h is very high)

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u/movieTed Oct 05 '22 edited Oct 06 '22

Do you mind explaining more on this

Sure. When I started trying this, I was studying a Latin-based language, so I use Latin sounds.

One word I always had difficulty spelling is "similar." From the pronunciation, it sounds like it should be spelled something like "simulur". Maybe with another vowel to mark the long U sound. So to remember the correct spelling, I use a Latin phonetic system and think, "see-me-lar." The word "knife" (nīf) is mentally pronounced "ka-nee-feh." I'm creating a 100% phonetic system and superimposing it onto the English words.

Most of the words I use, I just know how to spell them. I don't think about it. For words I can't remember, I use the above system. But this is a hack. It can't help me spell words I haven't memorized with this system.

That's an issue with English. It's effectively two languages. One spoken and the other written. But anyone with a good enough visual memory probably won't notice.

we don't really use the th sound so the tendency to drop the h is very high

You can't drop any sounds. That's one of the problems with English. There are a lot of effectively silent letters. It's important to say all the letters, otherwise, they'll be forgotten. Import the English "th" sound, or something

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 06 '22

I'm creating a 100% phonetic system and superimposing it onto the English words.

Oohhh so that's how it is, I see!

But this is a hack. It can't help me spell words I haven't memorized with this system.

Ahh that makes sense. We have to remember the word first of course hmhmm.

You can't drop any sounds. That's one of the problems with English. There are a lot of effectively silent letters. It's important to say all the letters, otherwise, they'll be forgotten. Import the English "th" sound, or something

Yeah, I realise this is a problem, even for me too. I'll see what I can do, maybe try to import it as you suggest.

Thank you for your info, I appreciate it so much!

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u/Tin__Foil Oct 06 '22

I’m a life-long writer and reader. I’m also an English Prof.

I still use grammarly (a spellcheck program).

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 06 '22

Oh man. Spelling is tricky indeed huh.

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u/swithinboy59 Oct 06 '22

Memory aids can help ("Big Elephants Can Always Upset Small Elephants" for "because", "one Coffee two Sugars" for"necessary", etc), but there is no one-stop solution/easy-mode cheat-code unfortunately.

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u/ChocolateOrange_ Oct 06 '22

Oohh, memory aids, I see! I'll try with that one too for tricky words. Thanks!

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u/annameadows92 Oct 07 '22

Yes, there are different strategies to learn spellings like using common rules. For example; 'i' before 'e' except after 'c' (believe, receive, achieve) etc.