I read an article the other day (which I cannot for the life of me find now) arguing that learning to spell is not important because today we have spelling checkers and autocorrect facilities to do that for us. My response was…..pfffft. For many reasons.
- if the spelling mistake forms a new word, your spellchecker will not pick it up
- the spelling checker cannot pick up every single word
- it is important (even though it may not seem that way) to learn the technical side of language
Regarding number 3 – if you do not know how your mother tongue works, it is very difficult to learn foreign languages. I have many students who learned their mother tongue ‘organically’ – by using it. Which is all very well, until you need to explain or learn a grammar concept. Or study another language. Let’s say you need to learn how an adjective describes a noun or an adverb describes a verb. If you haven’t learned that in your own language you will battle to learn that in another language. To those who say ‘why should I need to learn a new language? Everyone speaks English’ I have no answer because that is your own choice but is perhaps a little arrogant if you move to live in another country. Ironically, many second language speakers of English have better grasp of English grammar and spelling than native speakers.
I used to teach web design and when I did, I taught all my students to manually code. They used to sigh and roll their eyes and say ‘that’s what editing programmes are for’. I still have old students contacting me and thanking me for doing that because now, when their editing program me will not do what they want it to, or there is a glitch – they can go in and fix it manually.
Getting back to the spelling though, I read this article on buzzfeed last week and it kind of proved my point about how spellcheckers or winging it does not always work!
Maybe you don’t need to have as brilliant a command of spelling as was required fifty years ago, but you do need to know how to spell and you probably will need to know how to spell many years in the future, even in a world where things are likely to be recorded in visual media rather than the written word.