Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is our spelling really getting worse?

Johanna Stirling blogs about spelling...

I read so many people bemoaning the fact that our spelling is getting worse. And most seem to blame technology. I'm not sure that our knowledge of spelling is getting worse and I don't think technology is solely to blame if it is.

The fact is that we write far more than we ever used to (and I think that's a good thing!). And also much of what we write is for public consumption. So of course mistakes are seen more. We are also ridiculously 'busy' with constant distractions, so the main problem seems to be that we don't take time to check what we've written. Even people who are complaining about other people's spelling let themselves down. I read this today:
 "Myself, i HATE to see spelling errors in texts that are supposed to have been proff-read."
It's spell checkers that get singled out for most of the blame. I was sent an article on the subject today that I really want to respond to. So I'm going to!

You can read the article Technology Spell Check Leaves Many Adults Unable To Spell here or just read me ranting about it below.

The article starts off by claiming:
Technology has left many Britons unable to spell words like "definitely" and "separate", a survey has found. It suggests that the UK has produced an "auto-correct generation" that relies on computer spell checks. The poll, which questioned more than 2,000 adults, found that around a third could not spell "definitely" while a similar proportion failed to pick the right spelling of "separate". And around two thirds (65%) picked a wrong spelling for "necessary" from a list that did not include the right spelling.
First objection: Lots of people couldn't spell 'definitely' and 'separate' long before computers were around. I remember only learning to spell 'definitely' when I realised it contained the word 'finite'.

Second: spell checkers and auto-correct are different things. The spell checker warns you that you might have spelled something wrong and encourages you to think about what you meant to write but auto-correct just changes it for you if you've written a string of letters that people often write meaning something else.

Third: I don't like their 'poll'. Asking people to choose the correct spelling when it is surrounded by wrong but plausible spellings is asking for trouble. You might automatically write 'necessary' correctly in a sentence, but when someone offers you the choice of the word with two 'c's or one 's', it makes you stop and think that maybe you were wrong. It plants the seed of doubt. So that's bad enough but here the list didn't even include the right spelling, so it sounds like people were tricked. By the way if you can't remember how to spell the word 'necessary', remember "It's necessary to have one coat (one 'c') and two socks (two 's's)".

The article goes on:
And many people are relying on spell checks - 18% said they use this all the time. Fewer than one in 10 (9%) said they never use a spell check.
Umm ... what's wrong with using a spell check? I use one all the time too. It's a good strategy to catch your typos and words you're not sure about. In fact, what worried me about this was that 82% don't use one all the time. Try it, folks, you'll like it.

Sure there are people who can't spell well - lots of them - and it's a problem. But is it really getting worse or just more obvious? Whichever, I offer two suggestions:

1) Let's not teach children that English is spelled as it sounds (phonics) as more than 50% of it isn't. Yes, they need to learn sound-to-letter correspondences, but they also need to learn about the origins of words and look at a range of strategies for coping with the complexity that is English spelling. (See Teaching Spelling to English Language Learners for ways to do this.)

2) We should all (myself included) train ourselves to pause and check what we've written before pressing the Send button. And again we need more focus on this at school - editing.

So what about you?
  • Do you agree?
  • Do you have any proof that spelling has really got worse?
  • How do you feel about spell checkers?
  • And auto-correct?
  • And phonics?
Is our spelling really getting worse? from The Spelling Blog, Want to work on your spelling? Subscribe to or follow this blog for regular suggestions. Do you have a favorite spelling resource? Please share it with us.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Please introduce yourself

Are you new to Blogging English and the online self-paced study group? We really want to learn more about you and get to know one another. Tell us about yourself, and write a short introduction by answering the questions below.

Please post your introduction as a comment to this post. New study group members can comment but not post until they show interest in participation by commenting.

Answer the questions with complete sentences to write a personal introduction paragraph. Format by omitting numerals and starting the next sentence on the same line as the one before. Do not start sentences on a new line.

Monday, May 07, 2012

My self introduction

Hi All

I've been learning English at Vanessa's class since 2004. However I was absent for almost 18 months. So I don't know any  one of this class. Let me introduce myself.

I'm now 72 years old. I live now on my pension. I live in Saitama, Japan. I have several hobbies. I'm very busy for them. At first, I'm crazy about playing contract bridge. I belong three bridge clubs. I spend 5 days at my club in a month. I'm a member of three teams. Each team play team match once a month. So I go to Tokyo 2-3 times in a month.
Besides, I play 8-10 boards almost every night on BBO which I can play bridge by free. I'm eager to improve my skills of bridge but it's not easy.   

I'm learning how to play ocarina. My friend and me visit nursery home once a month and play our ocarina. We asked them to song  children songs with our music. Aged people like to sing songs.
I have to practice to play my ocarina. Because I had never good score in school. Though I've been playing my ocarina for 5 years,
I'm still a beginner of it.

My third hobby is English. I read English news on Internet everyday. I have a subscription of Washington Post. I read an article which I am interested in at least the first paragraph of it . I visited BBC news. Thanks to Vanessa, I'm now able to understand main articles almost without looking up my dictionary.

I received e-mail from Vanessa last month. I decided to learn English at this class again. 
I'm old but I have a will to lean English. 
See you.


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Common Writing Mistakes

A handy quick reference guide from About ESL with links to help resources:
The use of articles - the, a, an and nothing - When mentioning something for the first time, use 'a or an', When speaking about something in general, use nothing with the plural form of the noun. Check your understanding with this guide to article usage.
The use of countable and uncountable nouns. - The expressions of quantity you use change based on whether a noun is countable or uncountable. Check here for more help with countable and uncountable nouns.
Use of Linking Language - Sentences need to be connected by linking language which include words such as 'although, despite, however, etc.' Here's a guide to commonly used linking language.
Punctuation - Correct punctuation is difficult for everyone, even native English speakers. This punctuation guide will help you learn when to use periods, commas, semi-colons and more.
Common mistakes - There are a number of common mistakes such as the difference between 'it's' and 'its'. Here's a guide to the most common mistakes made in English. 
These are the most common, but we each have our own particular pattern of mistakes that probably include these and possibly others. What are yours? Make a list and use it to check your writing. There are many editing and writing checklists online, but every writing should have his or her own that includes both personal and common mistakes as well as bad writing habits to avoid. 
Here is a list of seven for native speaker writers (yes, we make mistakes too!) and another. What mistakes are common to all of these lists? What ones are more likely to be made by non-native speakers? There are also writing mistakes or error patterns common to native speakers of a particular language. 
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