The Challenge of Spelling Bee in English: A Critique


“The challenge of Spelling Bee in English” is an article written by Eran Williams, in which he discusses about the importance of spelling in learning English language. He takes American culture as an example but talks in a much broader perspective about the problems associated with learning the language. He addresses the academic community, especially the teachers and gives important suggestions to them regarding the teaching of this language. In essence he calls for a change in attitudes towards the teaching and learning of the English language.

Williams takes spelling bees contest as an example to highlight the difficulties associated with English language. After introducing the contest precisely in initial few paragraphs, he discusses the causes of difficulty of spelling. It includes the alphabets, because English language is not phonographic. Dictionaries fix only words and sounds keep on changing. Dutch typewriters added trivial words to make more money. History of English is blamed for amalgamating the words of other languages, as a consequence of colonization. Writer emphasizes these factors because to learn English language effectively, it is important to have the knowledge of these factors as well. He also talks about the failed spelling reform movements. Although several arguments were presented; as for example, saving money by conserving ink and paper, worldwide promotion of the language, traumatic burden on the beginners etc, but to no avail.

Williams discusses the importance of spelling as well. Neither he exaggerates the importance of spelling, nor undermines its significance. He says that for reading correct spelling are not necessary and reading does not improve spelling. According to the writer, although correct spelling is not necessary in communication but it is given much significance in the academic community and professional fields. People’s educational background and intelligence could be judged through their use of correct spelling and sentence structure in the professional fields; as for instance in job application or resume, essay writing, research etc.

In the end of the article, Williams criticizes specifically, the role of teachers in the whole spelling dilemma. He says that pointing out the spelling mistakes is the easiest aspect of language to identify. Here he suggests that the English language teachers should be more flexible while teaching this language. Earlier in the article he says that “laws differ from language to language”… English is the language for which no hard and fast rules could be followed to learn the spellings; keeping in mind its history. So frequently misspelled words are needed to be paid more attention by the teachers, he suggests. It will minimize the learner’s consternation and would be convenient for the teachers as well. After all learning a language is not an easy task and takes time, and needs collaboration between teachers and students.

Eran Williams provided detailed information about the challenge of spelling in the English language learning. After presenting his argument he has given the historical background of the whole spelling bee contest… which highlights the importance of spelling in the whole society, and how it is ingrained in the culture itself. Logically proceeding from background to present significance, complications associated with spelling, and reform movements, he conveyed his message to intended audience .i.e. teachers. Writer maintained the balance throughout the article and remained unbiased. Moreover he said that each word has significance… the important thing is, how you deal with them, correct use of language is considered as a symbol of prestige. He suggested the teachers to be more patient while teaching and take the spelling in the broader perspective, as language is the part of human society, so it is complex.

It goes beyond doubt that spelling is a challenge, and learning a new language could never be easy at all… but practical approach is needed. I agree with the writer when he asserts that its importance should not be overestimated. It’s not possible for an average human being to be perfect in entire spelling, so concessions should be given by the teachers to the students. Though, I am consistent with writer’s idea that contests like the spelling bee are given extra importance in American culture. As the contest is all about the behemoth words, very rarely used, and make the language more complex for the learners. It is true that these types of contests should not be overestimated but if we take it optimistically, it is a healthy entertainment for the individuals. I also agree with the writer that successful reading doesn’t depend on spelling alone, but other skills are needed as well. The spellings are not important for communication, but they are given due recognition in the formal organizations, academic community, and writings and research of individuals etc.

This work by Eran Williams provides a good understanding of whole issue of the challenge of spelling in the English language learning. It can be helpful for the teachers to revise their teaching practices, and tactically deal with the problem. They should encourage the students by appreciating their efforts in learning the language and familiarize them with spelling importance.

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