Spelling: Does It Matter?

How do you spell “people”? Pay-oh-play. If this is how your Advanced students spell English words…spelling may just be something to work on.

I’ve found that students I’ve taught whose languages don’t use the Latin script tend to be much better at spelling aloud in English, probably because they have to learn the alphabet from scratch and there are no equivalents in their languages

But to speakers of many phonetic languages (I suppose those sharing the Latin script), this makes perfect sense. It’s how you would pronounce the word if it were a word in their language. I’ll admit that there is something logically confusing about why we say “G” and “J” are the way we do, as well as “C” and “S”. But the fact is, we say these letters as we do, and not being able to do that will actually make things harder for learners.

There are a few students who have truly horrendous spelling (uv = of, wid = with), but, aside from these cases, many learners will have access to spell check, and really, it takes native speakers ages to learn to spell. Be realistic not only about how much your students can do, but about how useful it is for them given this. Many students will say they need English mainly to speak – which certainly doesn’t mean spelling is totally useless but may take it a notch down on the priority list.

I’d say that being able to spell something out loud and write down something that’s being spelled out to you is actually more important than being able to spell everything correctly.

How about someone who cannot spell their name in English because they use their won phonemic language to spell? If they make a phone call in English and need to spell their (perhaps unusual, foreign) name, they are out of luck.

Read on for some classroom activities for practicing spelling aloud.