“The vital factor to hold about spelling is that it’s now now not stunning rote memorization,” says Ananya Vinay, champion of the 2017 Scripps Nationwide Spelling Bee, who will ceremonially beginning this year’s bee subsequent week. Whereas Vinay makes exercise of flashcards to stare specific words, she says the specific trick is finding out the keep aside various words come from.
English spelling is largely ambiguous because it borrows words from so many other languages. Every of these languages has extra suited spelling recommendations. So that you simply can spell a word, you should hold its beginning keep aside. (In the bee, contestants could maybe possibly honest seek files from a word’s beginning keep aside, as successfully as its definition, portion of speech, and exercise in a sentence.)
As a rule that beginning keep aside is Latin or Greek. Those two languages elevate 60% of English, says Vinay. Whereas you know a word is Latinate, you know to search out for doubled consonants come the beginning keep aside of the word. Italian, the accepted language closest to Latin, also makes exercise of double letters; Vinay loves the word cappuccino.
French comes with refined silent letters, cherish the t in escargot, or the z in assoilzie, a word meaning “absolve or acquit” that went from French to Scottish to English whereas aloof sounding cherish a French word: “ah-soil-ee.”
German has its occupy quirks: A sh sound in a germanic word could maybe possibly honest be spelled sch, and German is in the assist of English’s infuriating “I forward of E” recommendations: In German, ie and ei always imply two various sounds. One precious mnemonic (which we didn’t salvage from Thirteen-year-veteran Vinay) is that wein rhymes with wine, and bier is stunning cherish beer.
English words with Asian origins are mercifully phonetic, as are Spanish words. Some anglicized vowel sounds could maybe possibly outing you up, nevertheless you’re much less seemingly to plod into silent letters.
Vinay makes exercise of stare app Quizlet (whose handbook keep us enthralling with Vinay) to war thru her flashcards. She’s released two stare sets for newbies and for progressed spellers on the positioning. (Old Scripps champions can’t compete but again, so now Vinay coaches her school’s team.) She likes sorting her words into lists of specific language origins. The app tracks her errors so she can come assist to anguish words. “I could maybe possibly plot 600 words in an hour if I needed to,” she tells us.
Why learn spelling when your computer can plot it for you with dotted crimson traces? In consequence of finding out about words and languages means finding out historical previous and mythology: Vinay excitedly tells Lifehacker about Latinate words cherish “narcissist,” named after the tragic son of a nymph and a river god who fell in admire with his occupy reflection and drowned.
Vinay says spelling has helped her in other study and tutorial competitions, cherish debate and historical previous lessons. In the Science Bowl, she can title names of minerals, chemicals, or species by recognizing the root words. She can seek the connections between concepts, and the plot these concepts spread and progressed. Spelling isn’t trivia—it’s a document of human historical previous.