When Good Vocabulary Is Not Enough

Which do you think is more important, good vocabulary or good spelling skills? Many teachers would tell you that the main objective for young learners is to expand their vocabulary so they can communicate efficiently and accurately with their peers.

A good vocabulary is key to being a competent speaker. Having the words for the thoughts, feelings, ideas and notions you want to communicate makes it easier for you to get heard, convince people to follow you, and get what you are after.

However, as many teachers would also tell you, good vocabulary is not enough. Having an extensive lexicon filled with impressive and obscure words doesn’t mean you are a competent language user overall. If your spelling skills are weak, then your written language output will more likely suffer too. What’s more, it will make you look bad.

Take an 8th grader’s essay. They might be using vocabulary that’s well above their grade level and that’s impressive and worthy of praise, but if that same essay is laden with misspellings, then the first impression the teacher gets is that this student is sloppy, pays no attention to detail, and needs to work more on their language skills.

Bad spelling skill ruins communication on any level, and overshadows any other language skills you might have. Which is, of course, a pity. English spelling is notorious for its absurd patterns, lack of rules, and thousands of loanwords from other languages, so what’s a frustrated ESL student to do?

Fortunately, good spelling skills can be mastered, and you can become a proficient speller — we’re talking spelling bee champion kind of level. The trick is to have a systematic approach to spelling mastery. Of course, a love for language will also help!

If you’re a teacher, ensure you devote ample time to teaching your students how to spell, and if you are a student don’t give up on your spelling practice.

Spelling is an acquirable skill you can easily master as long as you are willing to learn. Invest in a spelling improvement program or practice your spelling with the help of a friend or teacher. The Internet has also many free quality resources for you to practice with.

To become a proficient user of the English language don’t focus on vocabulary only. Make sure you cultivate your spelling skills as well, because it’s an equally important skill that can make — or break — your language skills in general.

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