- 01. A Brief History of the English Language
- 02. Learn English Spelling: Where Do Words Come From?
- 03. Learn English Spelling for Adults: Double Consonant Pairs
- 04. How to Use Pre- and Suffixes
- 05. Improving Your English Skills: How to Correct These Expressions
- 06. What is a Homophone and How to Use It?
- 07. Tips for Improving Your English Skills
- 08. Learn English Spelling With a Private Tutor
Rules for silent vowels and vowel pairs, the use of prefixes and suffixes and how to form adjectives and adverbs make phonetics only a part-time learning tool.
Some words' spelling has to be memorized in conjunction with their meaning. Poll and pole are a case in point. Which one suggests a survey and which one is a long, slender piece of wood or metal?
Truth be told, learning the basics of the English language is not enough to get a real grasp of these words and expressions. But fear not! This article will give you a quick run-through of things you need to know to improve your English skills and some tips to find a great English tutor to help you out.
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Are you ready to explore the top ten misspelled words of the English language? Along the way, you will find tips to start you on the path to proper spelling, every time.
Misspelled is in fact one of the most misspelled words in the English language.
A Brief History of the English Language
While not essential to your use of the language, knowing where English comes from can give you a good idea of words and expressions and their origin.
The history of the English language began when three Germanic tribes invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes were the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes. In order to invade Britain, they crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany.
It is important to note that at that time the people of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But once the invasion happened, most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders, mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
The Angles came from "Englaland" and their language was called "Englisc" and that's where the words "England" and "English" come from.
The three tribes spoke a similar language. Still, the "English" they spoke is nothing like modern English. They spoke what we now call Old English. Old English sounds very different from modern day English and most native English speakers would not be able to understand or read it.
Nevertheless, about half of the most commonly used words in Modern English have Old English roots. For example, words like be, strong and water, come from Old English.
After Old English came Middle English. This happened when William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy (part of modern France), invaded and conquered England.
The Normans spoke a similar language to French, which became the language of the Royal Court, and the ruling and business classes. This derived in a "language class division": the lower classes spoke English and the upper classes spoke French. But this didn't last long. In the 14th century English became dominant in Britain again. Still, many French words were added.
Around this time, a big shift started to happen: the Great Vowel Shift. This meant that vowels were pronounced shorter and shorter. On top of this, many new words and phrases entered the language thanks to the Renaissance of Classical learning.
The big leap into Early Modern English (a similar English to the one we know and speak nowadays) happened with the invention of printing. The invention of printing meant that there was now a common language in print. Since books became cheaper, more people learned to read. Printing also brought standardization to English.
From there, Late Modern English developed. The main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English is vocabulary. Late Modern English has more words. This happened thanks to the Industrial Revolution (technology created a need for new words) and the fact that the British Empire was so spread out around the world that it adopted words from many different languages.
Next, the English colonization of North America resulted in the creation of a distinct American variety of English. American English is now widely popular thanks to the US's dominance of the pop culture and entertainment space.
Knowing this history can help understand etymology and get a better grasp of spelling and how to improve your English skills.
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Learn English Spelling: Where Do Words Come From?
Learning word etymology is generally not a part of mainstream English teaching. English lessons usually emphasize spelling rules as just a small part of basic English, rather than diving deeper into each word and how it acquired its meaning, and how its spelling and meaning have changed through time. But don't forget the many exceptions in the English language.
As we already saw, the English vocabulary is made up of words from several other languages. How those words are written in English - as opposed to their native language - may be a bit different but the meaning is close, if not the same as the original.
If you are an international student, you may recognize several English words with roots in French.
One such noun, government, ranks high on the list of words that are routinely incorrect both in written and spoken English.
Native speakers and students alike omit the n in the middle of the word. But it is important to know that, for proper English speaking, that letter must be spoken.
A handy way to remember how to spell and speak this word is by learning its root and related words: govern, governor, and governance.
In each of these words, the n is pronounced. Adding the suffix -ment does not remove any of the root word's letters.
If you are learning business English, this group of words would be a vital addition to your vocabulary.
To study English in depth, you should investigate where tricky words like this one come from. This is a good learning hack, since giving a little bit of reason to your use of certain words and expressions is a great way for you to remember them.
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Learn English Spelling for Adults: Double Consonant Pairs
Some words have two pairs of double consonants and spelling them correctly can be challenging not only for English students, but also for native speakers. The list of words with that criterion is rather longer than one would immediately think.
Although all of these words often stump even native English speakers, only two words on this list are routinely written wrong by natives and non natives alike: accommodate and occurrence.
Both of these have their roots in the Latin language, one in which words often feature letter doubling – more of consonants than vowels.
If you are learning English as a second language, one of the best ways to incorporate proper spelling and speaking of words is to know where they came from and how they were originally used.
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How to Use Pre- and Suffixes
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the most commonly misspelled word in the English language is the adverb publicly.
Adverbs made from adjectives, such as finally, normally and typically give the impression that every adverb must be written with a -ally suffix.
Adverbs are formed by adding only -ly
Because the adjective public does not end in -al – as final, normal and typical do, all you have to add to public is the adverbial suffix -ly, making the correct spelling of the word publicly.
This mistake happens so often that publically has earned its own entry into most English dictionaries.
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To improve your proficiency in changing adjectives into adverbs, you can practice your skills with online quizzes.
Improving Your English Skills: How to Correct These Expressions
Non native and native speakers alike confuse some words' root spelling with how to write it as an adverb.
As you practice English, you should recognize these words as improperly spelled (the correct spelling is in parentheses):
disposable (a reversal of the mistake, often written disposible)
capeable (a bizarre combination of cape and able)
Even though it makes sense that adding -able to a word gives a clue to the word's meaning, ending a word with a suffix does not change the fundamental spelling of the word.
How Slang and Regional Dialects Impact Spelling Ability
Admittedly, some people do say the words listed above as though there were an a rather than an i in the third syllable. Oftentimes, this comes from a local dialect - the way people from a given region use the language.
Another portion of blame falls on the growing use of ordinary vocabulary as slang terms. This phenomenon has become so prevalent that there is a website which regularly updates their list of words misused as slang.
In spite of regional dialect or slang usage of any word, as an English learner, you should always spell and use every word correctly.
Language learners all over the world naturally gravitate to the most trendy, up-to-date vernacular of the country they are in.
The typical native English speaker admittedly uses many slang words and phrases during the course of everyday conversation, a substantial number of which are born from the entertainment industry.
Musicians are especially adept at creating new spelling of words and phrases in an attempt to reflect their new, cool style.
You, who work so hard at language learning, should not be waylaid by such cavalier use of words... at least not until you can speak and write in English more or less fluently.
However, one artist to follow would be Weird Al Yankovic, whose video Word Crimes chastises those whose writing skills are lacking, or those who mistreat the language.
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What is a Homophone and How to Use It?
According to Merriam Webster, the foremost dictionary of American English, a homophone is a word that sounds like a word with a different meaning, regardless of whether it is spelled the same.
Thanks to word processing programs with auto-correct features and spell checkers, these days, people tend to be less concerned with proper spelling, counting on the machine to catch their mistakes.
While a spell checker is an excellent tool to catch and point out mistakes, auto-correct could actually impede your progress in mastering English – and lower your grade!
Imagine you are writing an essay for your english lessons online. Within your text is this sentence:
“I leave all of my worldly belongings to my airs.”
Your word processing software will not recognize any errors because everything is spelled correctly.
Unfortunately, the word you wrote is a homophone for heirs - meaning: people who have a right of inheritance.
Using the wrong homophone, even though correctly spelled, will result in a spelling error rather a vocabulary error on quizzes and exams.
It would be best to add them to your new words list and learn them well, lest they cost you points on your qualification exams.
Tips for Improving Your English Skills
There are some practical things you can do to improve your English skills:
Memorize words in groups – all of the words associated with it, or any word derived from it.
- Study this list of most commonly misspelled words put together by Oxford University
Take time to discover where the words you are studying come from. Oftentimes, etymology can help you understand why a word is spelled in the way that it is.
Learning prefixes and suffixes can help you understand meanings of words as well as spell them properly.
Set your computer's spell check to manual, so that words that need revision will be highlighted, for you to correct by yourself.
Disable the auto-correct function in your word processing program.
Doing so forces you to develop your spelling and grammar skills without relying on the machine to fix mistakes.
Take practice quizzes to challenge your abilities.
Going beyond rote memorization of vocabulary by: grouping words into families, by tracing the origin of words, and applying extensions correctly, you are putting yourself on the path of complete, in-depth learning of English and better spelling ability.
You can improve your English listening skills by downloading and playing podcasts from the British Council website.
They are hosted by speakers who use Oxford English, spoken clearly and concisely. The short segments inform and educate on a variety of topics, not the least of which are English grammar and vocabulary. Learn to to avoid common English Grammar mistakes here.
You can exercise your English pronunciation by printing out the segment's transcript and reading along.
Language is a living art
And remember: by learning how to express yourself in writing, with every word carefully chosen and properly spelled, you are contributing the the story and evolution of the language itself.
As if you didn't have motivation enough to learn English as thoroughly as you can, doesn't that inspire you to champion-level spelling?
Learn English Spelling With a Private Tutor
Are you excited to keep perfecting your English skills? Maybe it's time to hire a private tutor that can guide the next steps in your English learning journey.
In Superprof we have a network of thousands of tutors around the world and in the US who are ready to help you achieve your goals and improve your English spelling and writing.
Finding a tutor in our platform is pretty easy: you just need to search for the subject (in this case English) that you want to study and check out the different tutors available in your area.
All of the tutors in Superprof have different profiles. Some of them have a more academic background while others are less experienced as teachers but have the upside of being native speakers.
You might be wondering then: how to pick the right tutor for me? There is no right answer here and it will be totally up to you but we can help you out with some tips.
The first thing you need to do is really understand your needs. For example: it will be of no use hiring a conversation teacher when you need a more structured interaction.
In order to have more clarity about your needs, we have designed a set of questions that you can ask yourself:
- What is my current English level?
- What English level do I want to achieve?
- Have I taken English lessons before? What worked and didn't work?
- Am I taking a test that I need to pass like the TOEFL or IELTS?
- Do I need help with a specific way of speaking English like business English?
- Do I prefer online classes or would I rather be in the same room with my English tutor?
- How much am I willing to spend on my English lessons?
Answering this questions will aid in understanding the type of tutor that you need to hire. And this is where the next step happens: checking out the tutors' profiles on Superprof.
As we already said, we have thousands of English tutors who are ready to help you improve your English skills. Still, not all of them might be what you are looking for.
Make sure to read their profiles thoroughly and check out the following details to get a little bit more information about their background:
- What is their educational background?
- Do they have any certificates or diplomas?
- What is their professional background?
- Have they been an English tutor for long?
- What is their teaching method?
- How much is their hourly rate?
- Are they open to online lessons?
Another important thing to take into consideration are other students' reviews. These reviews are a real life window into what the tutor's lessons are like. There is no one better to give you information about them than someone who has already taken English classes with them.
Once you have found a tutor that looks promising, you can set up an interview with them. This first interview is considered as a "free" first lesson, where you will be able to talk about your expectations, your background and objectives. The tutor will also talk about themselves, their background and teaching method.
Being extra open and communicative in this part of the process is key. Don't be afraid to express your fears and needs. It is really important for tutors to fully grasp the reality of the student's expectations.
Also, when it comes to correct spelling and improving your English skills, you need to tell them what it is that you feel you are lacking, the common mistakes you are making and the specific things you want to improve. This way, they can work in creating a course plan that works specifically for you. In the end, that is the main differentiator for private tutoring: having the lessons adapted to your very personal and specific needs.
Once you are both aligned in terms of objectives, you can set up a work plan and schedule. How many lessons will you take? How often? Where will they take place? These are all questions that need to be answered so you can start having an official learning schedule. Once you settle on these details, you are ready to go!
Improving your English skills is a matter of practice and patience so make sure to give yourself the space to learn. You can also use other resources like movies, music and books to take your vocabulary up a notch and get to your English learning objectives even faster.
Remember to rely on your tutor for any questions and make sure to do your homework, follow your lesson plan and enjoy yourself!
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