Unit 2: Learning tips, how to improve your spelling

From... Tips, help learning English spelling to... Tips, help learning English spelling

English spelling may be a nightmare - but Spellzone shows you there are many things you can do to help yourself improve. This Unit gives you tips on the best approach to spelling problems:

  • how to cope in everyday life
  • how to learn those difficult words
  • special tips for homophones -
    mistakes the computer spellchecker won't spot

A. Some general tips to improve your spelling

1. First - don't despair! Some of the world's cleverest people have struggled with English spelling - you are not alone! Try out these ideas and you should soon see an improvement.

2. When you are practising spellings, use as many senses as you can:

Tips, help learning English spelling Tips, help learning English spelling Tips, help learning English spelling Tips, help learning English spelling Tips, help learning English spelling Tips, help learning English spelling Tips, help learning English spelling
  • Look closely at a word, try to remember what it LOOKS like
  • Think about the SOUND of a word -
    that will often give you clues about the spelling
  • To learn a word, WRITE it or TYPE it - or both

In this way, you are using three senses to learn a word: sight, hearing and movement - the method most experts agree is best. The Spellzone course uses this approach:

  • words are grouped by sound
  • lists of words show you the different ways of spelling that sound
  • there are exercises to practice each set of words by writing
    and/or typing

Tips, help learning English spelling

If you only use a keyboard, use that for your practice. You will be training your fingers to use the correct movements to spell that word or sound. However, despite the growing use of computers, most of us have to write by hand at some time - and this can be a very useful aid to learning in itself. Think about writing your name:

Tips, help learning English spelling

Your pen 'knows where to go' - it is automatic.

The same thing happens with some sounds:, when you hear the sound /ing/, your hand automatically writes the letters: 

Tips, help learning English spelling

When you write several words with the same letter pattern, you are training your hand to work automatically - soon you will not need to think about those words.

Never use capitals when writing to learn words - the word will have no shape, which will not help your visual memory. If possible use cursive script (joined writing) - the 'flow' of the writing helps the process become automatic.

Get as much practice as you can - the more you write, the better you will get. Take a pride in your handwriting and work to improve it - if your writing is clear, it will help you to remember how a word looks.

Tips, help learning English spelling 3. We are all different and we all make different spelling mistakes. To make your learning personal to you, start a 'Spelling Log' - your own personal dictionary.

Look carefully at the words you find hard and work out a way of remembering them (see the many tips on the next page). Write the words in your Spelling Log and keep the book with you at all times. Make use of odd moments to get some practice - you don't even need a pencil - just looking at the words will help and you can also trace the letters with a finger on any surface - even your leg.


Get a friend to test you on your target words regularly - tick off a word each time you get it correct. Three ticks and you can be fairly sure that word is fixed in your head. Tips, help learning English spelling

No single spelling course can teach you every word you need to know.
We all have different needs, depending largely on our workplace or study programme. If your work or study involves a particular set of words e.g. technical terms, target those you are likely to need often. For example:

This course will teach you the common words beginning with pn (a silent p):

pneumatic pneumonia
(the prefix pneu- is the Greek word for 'breathe')

Tips, help learning English spelling But, if you are studying medicine, you will also need to know:
pneumoconiosis (a lung disease)
and pneumonectomy (removal of the lung)

Your own Spelling Log should contain the words that YOU are most likely to need in your everyday life.


4. Dictionaries can be a help - sometimes - if you know how to spell the start of a word! If you need a lot of help with spelling, you might consider getting a specialist dictionary. Some examples:
Tips, help learning English spelling

Spelling dictionaries:

These list words only, with no meanings, which can make it easier to find a word. They also give all the variations of a word, so that you can see if adding a suffix means a spelling change. A typical entry from a spelling dictionary:

taste
tasteful
tasteless
tasty
tasted tasteful taster tasting tasty
tastefully tastefulness
tastlessly tastelessness
tastier tastiest tastiness

Phonetic dictionaries:

These list words by their sounds. For example, pneumonia will be found not only under 'p' but also under 'n'. Sometimes words are listed by their vowel sounds and how many syllables they have. This is part of a page in the 'ACE' dictionary (by Moseley & Nicol, published by LDA). Meanings are given only if they are homophones (words which sound the sound the same but have different spellings and different meanings):

F

LONG VOWEL oe
Tips, help learning English spelling
as in goat

*

*fold (bend)
folk

fro
froze

phone

**

focus
folklore
foretold

frozen


phobic
phoneme
photo

***

ferocious

focusing
foliage
folio


phobia
photograph

****

photocopy
photocopier
photo-electric
photo-finish
photosynthesis

'Normal' dictionaries often give a lot of information about word origins - and this word study can help to improve your spelling. This is an extract from Unit 35 - 'Why is English spelling so hard?' - a brief history of the English language. If you know where silent letters came from, you are more likely to remember them.

word lists
 
Around the 15th century many people became interested in the ancient cultures of Rome and Greece. During this period (the 'Renaissance', meaning 'rebirth'), the language used by scholars and writers was Latin, which contained many words derived from Greek. The writers liked to show off their knowledge by spelling words the Latin way, rather than the earlier English versions. This accounts for many of the silent letters we have today: Tips, help learning English spelling

Old English Latin Modern spelling
det debitum debt
ile insula isle, island
receit recepta receipt
doute dubitare doubt
 
word lists
word lists word lists

5. Playing word games with sympathetic friends will help your spelling. There are many games that involve making words from a random selection of letters, for example:  Scrabble, Boggle, Word Spin.

Tips, help learning English spelling Keep your Spelling Log with you and jot down any new spellings you want to practice.

6. Read a lot - not just books but everything around you e.g. food packets, newspapers, catalogues, billboards, road signs etc.

This will fix the look of many common spelling patterns in your memory - which will help you to spot if one of your spellings doesn't 'look right'.
Tips, help learning English spelling

7. Tips for coping with everyday spelling:

  • Keep a scrap of paper to hand, to try out different spellings for a word - often you will be able to tell which one 'just looks right' e.g. toylet/toilet    tois/toys

  • Often the words you need may be close at hand - perhaps in your college worksheet or textbook, or in the letter you are answering.

  • If you can't recall the look of a word, use the sounds - then, even if the spelling is not exactly right, the reader will know what you mean. (This course will teach you which letter patterns are the most common for English sounds.)

  • Don't be scared to ask people - most will only be too pleased to help you. (You could make a remark like: 'I'm just like Einstein - a lousy speller!')
  • Get a friend to check through anything important for you.
Tips, help learning English spelling

next part of the spelling course
Go to the next page: Tips on how to learn individual words


Find out how to get the full Spellzone course - around 450 web pages of teaching tips and practice exercises.
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Unit 2: Learning tips, how to improve your spelling

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