Fun With English

English Spelling!

I often apologise about the horrors of English spelling, but it's a fact: To speak English well, you need vocabulary, a nice accent, and good grammar. To write English well, you need vocabulary, grammar, an understanding of punctuation and good spelling.

So why is English spelling such a nightmare? One reason is that English has adopted words from many other languages, sometimes we keep the spelling and sometimes we change it to suit us. In Olde Worlde England words were written as they sounded (phonetically) and so one word could often be spelt in many different ways, seemingly you only need to look at original Shakespeare manuscripts to see this chaos in action. Eventually spelling was standardised and set in stone in numerous dictionaries, but the chaos peeks through from time to time. As you learn English you will notice the pronunciation of a word often bears no resemblance to the way it is spelt, (sorry) usually you will find a historical reason for this.

The good news is that although many English words have irregular spellings there are some rules that can help you. Watch out though, for every rule there are always some exceptions (sorry)!

English has over 1,100 different ways to spell its 44 separate sounds, more than any other language, think of it as a game rather than a chore.

How to Improve Your Spelling

  1. Keep a notebook of words you find difficult to spell. Underline the part of the word that you find most difficult.
  2. Use a dictionary, not a spell-checker! OK use a spell-checker, but don't rely on it. Spell-checkers don't check for meaning, the most common misspelt words I have seen on the net are there and their.
  3. Learn words with their possible prefixes and suffixes.
  4. Learn the rules, but don't rely on them. As I mentioned earlier for every rule there is at least one exception. For example:-
i before e except after c
One of the first English spelling rules that was learnt in most schools is "i before e except after c". This only works when the pronunciation of the word is like a long ee as in shield.
For example:-
piece, relief, niece, priest, thief
but after c
conceive, conceit, receive, receipt 
when A or I is the sound
it's the other way round
with an 'a' sound - deign, eight, neighbour, feign, reign, vein, weight
with an 'i' sound either, feisty, height, neither, sleight
Exceptions (sorry):
seize, weird, conscientious, conscience, efficient . . .

Silent Letters

There are lots of silent letters in English. Yes, we stick letters in a word and then we don't pronounce them (sorry).

What is a silent letter?
A silent letter is a letter that must be included when you write the word even though you don't pronounce it. Over half the alphabet can appear as silent letters in words. They can be found at the beginning, end or middle of the words and, from the sound of the word, you wouldn't know that they were there.
For example:-
a - treadle, bread
b - lamb, bomb, comb
c - scissors, science, scent
d - edge, bridge, ledge
e - see below
h - honour, honest, school
k - know, knight, knowledge
l - talk, psalm, should
n - hymn, autumn, column
p - pneumatic, psalm, psychology
s - isle, island, aisle
t - listen, rustle, shistle
u - biscuit, guess, guitar
w - write, wrong, wrist
Silent e

Silent e is the most commonly found silent letter in the alphabet.
There are some hard and fast rules for spelling when a word ends with a silent e.
When you wish to add a suffix to a word and it ends with a silent e, if the suffix begins with a consonant you don't need to change the stem of the word.

For example:
force + ful =forceful
manage + ment =management
sincere + ly =sincerely

If however the suffix begins with a vowel or a y, drop the e before adding the suffix.
For example:
fame + ous =famous
nerve + ous =nervous
believable + y =believably
criticise + ism =criticism

mileage, aggreeable

Prefixes and Suffixes

Adding a prefix to a word doesn't usually change the spelling of the stem of the word.

For example:-
anti + septic antiseptic
auto + biography autobiography
de - sensitize desensitize
dis - approve disapprove
im - possible impossible
inter - mediate intermediate
mega - byte megabyte
mis - take mistake
micro - chip microchip
re - used reused
un - available unavailable

Adding a suffix to a word often changes the spelling of the stem of the word. The following may help you work out the changes. Again there are exceptions, so if you're not sure - look it up in your dictionary.

Useful Vocabulary

knife(knives) fork(s) spoon(s) teaspoon(s)
knife (knives) fork(s) spoon(s) teaspoon(s)

plate(s) bowl(s) cup(s) saucer(s)
plate(s) bowl(s) cup(s) saucer(s)

Naturally Speaking

Sometimes there are things you like or don't like or even things you don't eat.

Things you do eat / like.
Things you don't eat / like.
I like fruit. I don't like fruit.
I love spinach. I hate spinach.
I'm a vegetarian, I only eat fruit and vegetables. I'm a vegetarian, I don't eat meat or fish.
I have allergies, but I can eat fruit. I have allergies, so I can't eat anything containing nuts.
I eat fish on Friday, for religious reasons. I don't eat pork, for religious reasons.

When learning English, is it "Do What The Natives Do"?

Studying to improve your English language reading, speaking, and writing skills constitutes an adventure in language and is a noble goal. As you pursue your mission, it's imperative you consider your course of study, whether formal or informal, and who is charting your course. With that in mind, is it more desirable to learn the English language from a native English speaker teacher?  Should they be the captain of the ship that is the English language? 

Any captain on any voyage has a clear understanding of their destination (goal). They know why they are heading in that direction, knowledge of all the intricacies of their task, how to communicate effectively to achieve desired goals, and the best way to get there. Your English language captain (teacher) must incorporate these elements into their mission to help you learn English.

A teacher of English must know your goals – your desire to learn English so you can speak, write, and read the language better. They must know the reason you desire to improve your English language skills - whether for business use, personal use, academic purposes or to pass that scary English exam, or maybeall of the above. They must have the knowledge that will help you achieve your goal, and of the intricacies of the language; its slang, idiosyncrasies, turns of phrase, and of course the building blocks of the language and its proper use. Most importantly, they must be able to communicate all of this to you effectively. Their formal and informal speech, their way of turning a phrase, their use of slang, their idiosyncratic way of speaking the language is essential to you to take in different aspects of the English language. Finally, they must have a course charted to help you reach your goal, your destination, of being comfortable in the language and at ease when using it. So, you might think a native speaker will be your best option for learning the English language – but that's not the fact in all cases.

So, what makes a native speaker?

A native speaker is someone who has gained knowledge of a language from birth, as his or her first language. It is the language they first learnt to speak, read, and write – the language they primarily used at home, school, play, and work. Any other language that they may have learned, but used significantly less in life, would be their second language.
Being a native speaker of English, doesn't mean they are of English descent; you don't have to have been born in England or America to be considered a native speaker, it simply means the English language defines their method of communicating; it is the language that is the essence of their ability to communicate - any other language knowledge coming later and used less, is a subordinate language, so-to-speak.

Do English learners need to learn from native speaker teachers?

Learning from a native speaker may be perceived to be the best way to learn, but that's not always the case. Some people couldn't teach their way out of a paper bag, and a non-native English teacher well versed in the language through study and maybe living and working in an English culture for some time, can serve your purposes just as well. They will typically have an excellent grasp of the language, including many of its subtleties, and they may possess fine teaching skills that will impart the essence of the English language to you easily and naturally. If you want to learn English to pass an exam, they may well have taken that exam personally, especially if it's a local exam, and will know some of the tricks and tips of getting a good grade. Non-native speakers may well be able to understand the sticking points, and difficulties faced by ESL learners better than someone who has been speaking the language all their life, and simply take it for granted. You could gain much from working with a non native teacher..

That being said, there's nothing like learning from those whose entire being is the English language, inbred in them since they drew their first breath (and as science has shown, probably before that). However, that doesn't mean they are the best teachers; they only benefit you in as much as they can "get the message out" concerning all the elements of the English language.

Really, it all boils down to quality of teaching. With the advent of the internet, there is much more choice out there. More and more teachers are discovering the joys of teaching online, and learners are no longer restricted to attending a local language school, with the one size fits all approach. Learners now have access to hundreds, if not thousands of independent teachers, there are websites that have been set up simply to put you in touch with them, or you can just search for their own personal site, or profile in the ever growing social networks out there. Of course this also makes it more difficult for learners to find the right teacher, so much choice can be confusing, but if after asking for references and recommendations you end up with two choices: non-native speaker vs native speaker, check who is the most adept at teaching, and who you think you can get on with the best. Sometimes I think that choosing a teacher is as important as choosing a life partner, it's going to be a long and rocky road, and you need to at least like each other.

Is wanting to "speak like a native" a realistic goal for English learners?

It can be. First, consider these questions: Do you need to be able to speak like a native English speaker for your purposes? Will you get by just fine, using the English language at a quality level, while not exactly communicating as if you were born with a Webster's Dictionary stuck to your tongue?
There's absolutely no reason to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on yourself to reach this lofty goal if it's not necessary for your purposes. Feeling pressure to achieve this level may cause you to avoid your studies. The joy of learning the English language may become a tedious chore to you.

However, if this is something you desire, go for it. Embrace the challenge and find the best instructor suited to the task. Then get at it and be patient with your progress, remember - the voyage is half the fun.
Consider the above points as you embark on your voyage to discover the joys of the English language. Consider your unique reasons for studying English, whether mainly for business use, personal use, or both. Then decide on an appropriate teaching method, and teacher, to help you achieve your specific goals.
You want a well-rounded knowledge of the English language in all its complexities. It may mean learning from a non-native speaker teacher who can instruct you in the essentials of the language to suit your needs. It may mean learning from a native English speaker. Typically, they will impart to you the ethereal nuances of the language, which they have absorbed into their being since birth.


Some one sneezes. What do you say?
·        Bless you!
You’re just  going to start eating. What do you say?
·        Bon appetit.
·        Enjoy your meal!
Someone says ,“Have a nice day!“ What do you say?
·        You , too.
·        The same to you!
·        Thank you, the same to you.
Someone thanks you for something. What do you say?
·        Don’t mention it!
·        You’re welcome!
·        It was a pleasure!
·        A pleasure!
·        My pleasure!
Refuse an invitation politely.
·        I’d love to come, but I’m afraid I have to …..
Your  friend  is ill. What do you say?
·        I hope you feel better soon.
·        I hope you get better soon.
You want to smoke. What do you say?
·        May I smoke?
·        Do you mind if I smoke?
You need the salt. It’s at the other end of the table. What do you say?
·        Could you pass the salt, please?
A friend has just had a baby. What do you say?
·        Congratulations!
Great a friend on December 25th.
·        Merry Christmas!
·        Happy Christmas!
It’s a friend’s birthday. What do you say?
·        Happy Birthday!
·        Many happy returns!
A friend is leaving for the airport. What do you say?
·        Have a good flight / trip / holiday !
You’re late for a meeting. What do you say?
·        Sorry!
·        Sorry I’m late.
·        Excuse me!
A friend spilt coffee on your best suit. What do you say?
·        Never mind.
·        It doesn’t matter.
·        Don’t worry.
You’ve just finished chatting to a friend. What do you say?
·        Bye, see you soon!
·        See you later.
A friend can’t come to dinner. What do you say?
·        What a pity! Maybe next time.
A friend offers to give you a lift home. What do you say?
·        That would be nice, thank you.
·        That’s very kind of you.
A colleague gives you a birthday present. What do you say?
·        That’s very kind of you!
·        You really shouldn’t have!
You want someone to pass your greetings on to another person. What do you say?
·        Give / Pass  my regards to ……
·        Remember me to  ….