Can you spell “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis”? This little six-year-old can without a problem. Akash Vukoti is the youngest competitor in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee. Although he didn’t win, his age and his talent made him immensely popular among spelling bee fans.
He recently interviewed with Vox and had some advice for others who wanted to learn how to spell difficult words. His advice is:
1. Alternate pronunciation. Ask for different versions of the word’s pronunciation.
2. Am I pronouncing the word correctly? Check your own pronunciation for accuracy.
3. Language of origin. Knowing whether the word came from Greek, Latin, French, or another language, helps you determine spelling patterns common to that language.
4. Definition. Knowing what the word means will help you decide how to spell it.
5. Part of speech. There are differences in spelling nouns, adjectives, and other parts of speech. Knowing what part of speech the word is could help you determine the correct spelling.
Young Akash makes it all seem so easy to be the future spelling bee champion, but most of us don’t have time to devote to learning every word in the dictionary. For ESL students, there are other methods you can use:
1. Use memory tricks (called mnemonics). Spelling often requires simple and pure memorization, but it is difficult to remember a word by itself. Mnemonics help by associating a word with something else, making more connections in your brain. An example would be “an island is a land surrounded by water.” Mnemonics require some creativity, but they are an extremely useful strategy!
2. Rhyming families. Practicing a series of words that sound and are spelled the same can help you remember spelling endings. For example: “spell, tell, shell, fell” can help you master the “-ell” ending.
3. English language rules. There are a few rules that can be learned to help you remember how to spell words, but be careful! There are always exceptions to the rules.
– “i before e except after c”–example words: receive, believe
– “q is always with u (you)”–example words: quiet, quick (Qatar is NOT an English word)
– “consonant + y = ies”–when pluralizing, change the y into an i only when a consonant comes before it. Example words: daisy = daisies, day = days
4. Practice, practice, practice! Some words are just extra difficult to learn for whatever reason. Write the word often, look at it often, and use it often, and eventually you’ll be able to spell it without even thinking. 🙂
Video of Vox interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAOoFGCh1eY