Image Description

English Spelling for Non-English-Speaking Learners

Young adult in poverty

Unlike the usual methods taught to native English speakers, there is an urgent requirement to offer non-English speakers a ‘specialised’ spelling method.

For the non-New-English-speaker, not only is there the desire to spell the language correctly, but they also want to know that they are pronouncing the words as they are meant to sound. It is pointless speaking a language that  listeners do not easily understand. Yet, as the following offers, this is not usually the case.  

German or Swiss speakers, when referring to a ‘job’, usually pronounce it as a ‘chob’.
A Chinese person is likely to say 'lice' for 'rice' as there is no /r/ sound in Pinyin or Mandarin Chinese.
Similar problems are present for Italian immigrants when speaking English as there are five English letters that do not exist in Italian (x, w, y, k, and j).
More complexities can be found, too. For example – the English 'a' can be used as an 'a for apple' sound, and an 'a for apron', with long and short sounds (as well as with six /a/ sounds in diphthongs).

All non-English speakers have similar difficulties when it comes to their English pronunciation. 
In addition to differences in foreign languages, the pronunciation of English can be complicated by the fact that many words from other languages have been adopted, such as the French words, ballet or chalet. When pronounced in English the et has an /ay/ sound. It is also often that non-English spellers encounter the words ballet and chalet through the written word. They, therefore, understandably believe them to be pronounced as written. Alternately, if they have never seen the written word, they may spell ballet as ‘balay’ after hearing the correct pronunciation.

The English language is littered with hundreds of such words. The difficulty is the spelling of English with its variants and pronunciations, where many words are not sounded as spelt. For many individuals, particularly immigrants or refugees, there is a lack of courses that cover both spelling and pronunciation in one treatise.

In many cases, a child learning basic English in their home country, such as China or Russia will learn an English word from their Chinese/Russian teachers so they will not know how to pronounce it correctly, and pronounce the word 'rice' as 'lice'. The Russian may say 'vork' (for work) and 'wary' (for vary) as they mix w's and v's because these sounds are not clearly distinguished in the Russian language.

The problem is that when these words are pronounced incorrectly, the speaker is not aware of the error and will continue making them.
Another example for our Russian learner is where a p is more of a /b/ sound, so pig is pronounced - big.
Additionally, the /r/ sound for many guttural speakers is 'rolled' or trilled.

The following are three examples of pronunciations that the Easy-Spelling course offers;



Although pronunciation errors are evident in phonic words, the errors are even more apparent in non-phonic ones. 

When Easy-Spelling introduces a word (vocabulary), it offers methods to understand why it is spelt as it is, as well as how it is pronounced.


For students who are trying to master English, it is esential to learn a reasonable approximation of the pronouncation of words while simultaneously acquiring their spellings.