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Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday October 16, 2013 MYT 12:00:54 PM
by keith wright
Learning a new language may be difficult initially, but with the right steps, anyone can ace the subject.
OVER the past 1,500 years, the English language has changed significantly from its original Germanic roots due to conquests by the Romans and the Normans as well as the influence of foreign languages and “borrowed” cultures when England expanded its empire across the globe.
Today, English is recognised universally as the international language of communication.
It is therefore understandable why millions of individuals around the world, especially in countries where the first language spoken is not English, have embarked on study journeys to master the language.
Among the many problems first-time learners encounter are spelling, pronunciation and comprehension difficulties.
A common query from many StarEducate readers has been whether or not there are fast-track ways to enhance one’s English proficiency.
There are proven and effective methods that one can adopt to raise one’s level of English skills but emphasis should be given to spelling, writing, pronunciation and word recognition as these four skills are inter-related.
As mentioned previously, English words are created using single symbols, symbol combinations and extended symbol combinations.
How words are pronounced depends on their syllabic structure, stressing the syllables correctly and the variety of sounds that many symbols and their combinations produce.
Firstly, learners must develop the two-part skill of being able to recognise the symbolic structure of a word as well as know the sounds being produced by single symbols, symbol combinations and the extended symbol combinations.
Mastering this skill requires personal effort and application. This is mainly because of the English language characteristic that different single symbols and symbol combinations sometimes make the same sound while some symbols and combinations can produce more than one sound.
This task is made more challenging by another characteristic of the language; many of the single symbols and symbol combinations in words can produce different sounds, eg. cat — city — cello — cuisine — cheese — chef — mechanic — choir.
However, having this knowledge and skill is of paramount importance for learners as these different sounding single symbols and symbol combinations occur in the thousands of words used in everyday conversation.
Examples: engage — message — massage; promise — exercise — paradise.
While there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet, there are nearly 50 single symbol sounds as well as numerous additional sounds that can be created by multi-symbol combinations.
From a spelling aspect, one must also know which particular single symbol or symbol combination is producing the core sounds one can hear in words.
Examples: t-en, pl-an, b-ir-th, t-or-ch-ed, gar-den-ing, din-ner, con-cert, com-pre-hend, ex-ter-min-ate, con-cen-tra-tion.
Spelling is certainly one of the main areas of difficulty for learners for whom English is an additional language but that is also the case for most primary English language speakers, especially when they journey beyond their personal, everyday, lexicon comfort zone.
A few years ago, a national, literacy-language study in Australia revealed that during an entire lifetime, the average adult used around 15,000 different words when speaking. However, the same study surprisingly found that when it came to writing, the number dropped significantly to around 5,000.
It is well accepted that people use words in conversation that they know how to say or pronounce and also use but do not always know how to spell.
In numerous instances, English has produced its own pronunciation version of many of the borrowed words in the language. A well-known example is the French word, café. Normally in English, the final “e” in a word is silent. However, in café, the “e” makes the sound of “long a” as in gate and waiter.
Again, usually in English, when there are two vowels together in a word, the first one is sounded and the second one is silent, eg. seat; feature or pleasure; feather.
In a number of foreign words that have been added to the English language over the centuries, especially from the Greek language, the first vowel is silent and the second one is sounded, eg. archaeologist, paediatrician.
4S addresses the spelling dilemma by adopting a problem–solution approach, that is, by focusing on the factors that can cause the difficulty and then by proposing effective and proven remedies. In the next column, the 10 main spelling problem traps will be considered.
- Keith Wright is the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.
The 4S methodology and the associated Accelerated English Programme (AEP) mentioned in this fortnightly column are now being used internationally to enhance the English proficiency of people with different competency levels.
For a free PDF copy of The Superior Spelling Guide, e-mail email@example.com.
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Education, Exploring English
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