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English Spelling for Non-English Speaking Learners

Young adult in poverty

There is an urgent requirement to offer New-English speakers a ‘specialised’ English spelling method, as opposed to the usual methods that are taught to native English speakers.

For the 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 is not easily understood by listeners. Yet, as the following offers, this is not usually the case.  

The German or Swiss speaker, 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 to be had 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 – 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 language speakers have similar difficulties when it comes to their English pronunciation. 
For pronunciation of English (in addition to the afore given differences of foreign languages) is a fact that there are many words in the English lexicon that have been adopted, such as the French words, ballet or chalet. When pronounced in English the et has an /ay/ sound. It is 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. Or if they have never seen the written word, they may spell ballet as ‘balay’ after hearing the correct pronunciation.

English 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 these people (often immigrants or refugees) there is a lack of courses that teach 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 teacher and so does not know how to pronounce it correctly, and pronounce the word rice as lice. Or in Russian saying vork (for work) and wary (for vary) as they mix w's and v's because Russians do not clearly distinguish these.

The problem is that when these words are said 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 and 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 obvious in non-phonic words. 

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 the student who is trying to master English, it is imperative that they learn a reasonable approximation of how a word is pronounced. This is best undertaken at the same time as the learning of English spelling.