Common Spelling Mistakes by ESL Students
The English language is challenging to learn to speak, and the words that make it up can be even more challenging to learn to spell! Spelling mistakes are the bane of an ESL student’s life! It’s a temptation, when learning English as a second language, to focus all your time on trying to speak English correctly. But…studies have shown that a more holistic approach to language learning results in quicker acquisition and better retention. Reading and writing in the language you want to learn reinforces your comprehension of the words and phrases you know, and exposes you to the ones you may be less familiar with. This approach is the best advice for ESL students who want to avoid spelling mistakes. Spelling words in English, when you’re an ESL student, gives you a chance to autopsy the sounds that make up the word and to see the root meanings that build its definition.
2 Ways English Words Can Lead to Spellings Mistakes by ESL Students
EI and IE
There’s a rhyme that goes: “i before e except after c or when sounded as “a” as in neighbor and weigh”. That’s a pretty useful rhyme to learn, but I would add that there’re a number of words where solely relying on this pneumatic will let you down. There are exceptions to the rule, LOTS of them, and unfortunately, the only way around making spelling mistakes with them is to practice spelling lists of these rule-breakers.
COMMON WORDS THAT FOLLOW THE RULE RULE-BREAKERS
|achieve perceive neighbor||ancient weird|
|believe receipt weigh||efficient height|
|yield deceit beige||conscience protein|
|piece conceive feign||sufficient either|
These are just a few of the words that follow, and break the “ei” / “ie” spelling rules, for a more complete list of rule-breakers go to spellzone.com, make sure to play the audio file for each word too.
Words that include one consonant that is doubled and another single consonant, are often mistakenly spelled with either BOTH consonants doubled or BOTH left as single letters.
appoint becomes appointt or appoint
harass becomes harrass or haras
irregular becomes irreggular or irreggular
When a word does have 2 sets of doubled consonants, students often misspell it by leaving one or both consonants as single letters.
committee becomes comittee or comitee
embarrass becomes embarass or embaras
accidentally becomes accidentaly or acidentaly
Sometimes a word has only single consonants and ESL students mistakenly misspell it by doubling a consonant.
apartment becomes appartment
omit becomes ommit
pavilion becomes pavillion
It’s easy to make double consonant spelling mistakes especially when there are words that sound similar but are spelled differently—for example:
embarrass vs harass
aggressive vs progressive
The best way to be certain of an English word’s spelling is to look it up. If a word keeps fooling you somehow, take advantage of something called, “the production effect”, that says you learn challenging words more effectively if you read the word aloud, and write it down. Practice the words that you make spelling mistakes with often enough, and sooner or later the incorrect spelling will actually look wrong to you.