Is learning how to spell necessary?

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.

  1. if the spelling mistake forms a new word, your spellchecker will not pick it up
  2. the spelling checker cannot pick up every single word
  3. 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!

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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.


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

8 thoughts

  1. I tend to calm myself down when I feel my blood pressure rising by thinking that Shakespeare was probably considered too slangy and did not use language properly in his day. Maybe language is not better or worse, only different. But then I find some other language abomination that really annoys me and I forget all that. What really makes me angry is it is not the foreign speakers who do it – it is native speakers. They are either not taught properly or they are lazy. The spelling mistakes all over letters from school teachers to pupils as well from people applying to be English teachers at my school would make your hair stand on end. Even journalists today are so sloppy when they write and the sub-editors don’t catch the horrors before they end up in print like they used to – if they even have sub-editors anymore! I must be getting old…

  2. What an absolutely ludicrous statement. How long before future generations have all gone back to signing their name with a cross?

    What annoys me further is if one dares to correct someone’s spelling or grammar they’re vilified by the author, their friends, friends of friends, people who don’t even know them etc., who are all equally as useless as the perpetrator.

    **Steps down off soapbox 😉

  3. I agree with EVERY word you say and don’t need to comment further, but, I also think that not learning how to spell correctly instills another layer of laziness into today’s youth.

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