Learning to spell correctly -- life’s minute details

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 19 Aug 2018 10:56:59







FOR the past 13 years, the Spelling Bee contest is being held with a clock-like regularity. Every year, there is a good number of students entering the contest with renewed vigour, renewed preparation, renewed hope that they would make it to the final round and possibly win. Only two kids reach the top -- the winner and the runner-up. The rest go home disappointed, but not dejected. For, the next year, everybody returns with a renewed hope and wish to try harder and possibly win the Spelling Bee contest. 

The winning or losing apart, the contest has a greater meaning for students from the point of view of larger life than just spelling a few words correctly. We must understand this meaning -- concealed so importantly in the effort. For, the principles of hitting the correct spellings of difficult words -- or even words as simple as ‘nimble’ -- is critical to the process of learning and also thinking correctly.

How does one arrive at a correct spelling of a word? How does one realise the correct pronunciation of a word and derive the spelling phonetically? If these educational aspects are mastered, the student can be fairly assured of correctness of the spelling that he chooses finally. In most cases, with the process applied sensibly, the spelling is on dot -- correct.

Now, let us leave this spelling business aside for a while. Let us look at larger life. It is full of small details. If we master those correctly, we can spell all our life’s moves sensibly and correctly. Seen from this angle, learning to spell a word correctly also means giving a deep thought to life’s details, mastering how to tackle life’s challenges capably. If this lesson is understood and internalised, a lot of good can happen to the individual. For, when there is a word to be spelt correctly, one has to understand its pronunciation correctly. That leads us to know how to spell the word authentically.

There is a five-year-old boy who does not like elders telling him spelling of any word, small or big, easy or difficult. He is just learning to write words. Yet, when it comes to writing the spellings, this boy refuses to be dictated by anybody. He says, “Tell me the word correctly, and I will give you correct spelling.” And he does that -- spelling the word exactly almost in nine out of ten cases. So, once I tried to give him a very difficult word with as many as 16 letters. He wanted me to say the word three or four times and slowly. He heard that in rapt attention, and then wrote in big capital letters the word correctly.

The little boy could do that because he took his own time in understanding the pronunciation correctly, and then started inscribing each letter with a lot of thought. He scratched out one or two letters after he had written those, but later arrived at a correct spelling.

Unfortunately, spelling is one area which our education system has ignored often for years. A Science student need not know spellings correctly, the teachers often say. For, it is part of the educational policy on languages. If this is true, then I must assert that some bloody fool has defined this approach. For, as he did that, he destroyed the earlier insistence on correct spellings as an integral part of educational endeavour.

Against such a background, it is heartening to know that many schools send their students to spelling contests in good numbers. This generates a hope in the mind that at least some people are thinking on the right lines and therefore deserve a pat on the back.

Spelling is not the detail of a word; it is a process that
has close links with life. Handling the details of spelling correctly also exposes us to a great exercise of learning to address life’s small details with care and caution.