Spell Words Right

The Importance of Spelling

One cannot overstress the importance of spelling words right, especially ordinary words .. It is the hallmark of a poorly educated person to make spelling mistakes in everyday words. Yet many people care nothing about proper spelling words of words.. After they spend years  studying English grammar we can still some  misspelling it as “grammer.” Nowadays even the computer will caution  you about a wrong spelling. It is not unusual to see coaching centers spelt as   “tution”  centers.

In English there is often  no perfect correspondence between spelling and pronunciation. But in words which have a phonetic spelling a wrong spelling is often caused by poor pronunciation. In words which are pronounced as they are spelt it should be easy to learn the spelling just by learning the proper pronunciation. Certain word clusters follow a pattern in spelling and we have to learn them in their groupings. For example verbs ending in “p”double the “p” in the past tense as in


Dip- dipped

Stop- stopped

Flop- flopped

Similarly the n is doubled in short words with a short vowel

e.g. grin- grinned

       pin- pinned

       fan- fanned

       sin- sinned

Foreign words absorbed in English have to be learnt separately for their spelling and pronunciation. Words borrowed from Latin pose no difficulty for spelling since they are spelled exactly as they are pronounced in the original Latin. The same is the case with Italian loan words. For instance words like sine die , sine qua non, quo warranto, a priori, prima donna, post mortem, quid pro quo.

French words are likely to cause more trouble unless you know the French pattern of pronunciation. It often happens that in French the last letters are not pronounced as  in words like depot, picturesque, risqué, rendezvous, ballet etc. It is also typical of several French words to carry the accent on the last syllable as in menu, ballet, buffet, café etc. To learn the spelling properly it may help to pronounce the French words silently as they are  written but keeping in mind that the actual pronunciation is different.

It is so common to see ordinary words misspelled  in public places, name boards etc. Examples are ‘stationary’ for stationery, like in a stationary shop, ‘collage’ for college ‘wel come’ for the single word ‘welcome’ , ‘Jhon” for John,’Micheal’ for Michael etc. These boards are often written by semi-literate artists without any supervision by those who commission the name boards..

Important Language Skills

Language is the basic tool of social communication and for effective communication one should gain mastery of the language skills. There  are both active and passive skills. Passive skills are ability  to listen and understand or grasp the meaning of the text.. . Active skills are ability to speak and write. In the natural order of learning languages we learn the passive skills first. With regard to vocabulary or knowledge of words also we have active vocabulary and passive or recognition vocabulary. Active vocabulary are words we know to use in speaking and  writing and we have a better and surer grip on their meaning. Passive or recognition vocabulary are words outside our actual use   but whose meaning we can guess from the context. As we do wide reading we increase our passive vocabulary. These can turn into active vocabulary when we learn their precise meaning and use them in our communication.. When we read novels for example, we need not understand each and every word or expression in the book to follow the story. But when we read our text books it is necessary that all the words we come across should become part of our active vocabulary.

To listen well we need to know the pronunciation of words and meaning conveyed through intonation. Variation of intonation can change the meaning of a sentence or expression. Thus a statement can be turned into a question by using a rising tune in place of the falling tune of the statement. Thus if we say “He came here yesterday”, with a falling tune the sentence is a statement, a clear statement of a fact , the time and fact of his arrival. If on the other hand the same sentence is said with a rising tune “He came here yesterday?” it turns into a question in conversational English. To test our comprehension we should be able to put down in writing what we hear or answer questions based on the text we heard.

Reading is a complex skill. In audible reading pronunciation and intonation are important. These are picked up by close listening. To read sensibly one must first understand what one reads Thus comprehension is prior and basic to reading skill. When you read you need to  group words together according to sense. For example in the sentence

“When we were reaching the edge of the forest in our sports jeep we could hear the baying of hyenas  from distant hills piercing the night air”

a proper grouping of words would be as follows:

When we were reaching /the edge of the forest / in our sports jeep / we could hear / the baying of hyenas/  from distant hills/ piercing the night air.

Reading is more efficient when done silently. If one is reading light matter the reading can be done at rapid speed.

For self-investigation

1. What do I do to improve my passive vocabulary?

2.As I read, do I connect and group words together according to meaning?

3. Do I distinguish between matter that needs close reading and what needs only rapid     reading ?


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