Writing in English - voicing and spelling

Hi Steve and everybody.

Having been a fan of yours Steve and your ideas I’d appreciate
your telling me something on the subject. (and anybody else’s too:-)

You see, there is such a difference between written and vocalized form
of English words that causes troubles while writing.
My language, Slovak, which by the way is the closest to Russian amongst the Slavic languages using latin alphabet, is pronounced the way that makes written and vocalized representation pretty much the same.

When I write in English I get quite often in the situation I need to stop
and “spell” the word. The quotes I used for the spelling is actually
pronouncing the English word the way it would sound in Slovak,
and that is not quite pleasing me as I do it for words I’m familiar with very well. It’s annoying. However, pronouncing properly doesn’t help write properly.

One hint to help could be visualize the words.
This I assumed as I read what good spellers and the winners of the spelling bees do and poor ones don’t.
I tried for a while and it seemed to be a bit of help.
I have not practised, though and cannot really tell.

I’d like to hear a native English speaker tell me what they do.

Thanks for your insights.

Although I’m not a native speaker of English, I don’t have too much trouble while writting. I think it is more a matter of becoming used to the written form, through a lot of reading. Then, when you write some word with the wrong spelling, you end up “feeling” something is wrong, you look at the word and it simply seems odd to you. This is the way I use in my own native language too, I hardly think about spelling.

Hi anapaula,
I’m Ok with what you’re saying. Though I don’t know much about Portuguese I would say there are quite strict and somehow simple rules when it comes to pronunciation as opposed to English where those rules are so complicated and incomprehensible that nobody knows anything about them.
In Slovak language you pronouce the same you see, however I use the “feeling” to decide when not sure whether to choose “Y” or “I”. Those rules could be sometimes confusing too:-)

I may have not made it all clear enough.

For the reasons caused by nature of my language, while writing I tend to vocalize the English words (either out loud or in my head) the way they would sound if they were Slovak words. When it doen’t go automatically, I mean. And that I do not want to do.
But if I pronounce them correctly, I end up writing nonsense.

I read a lot and agree with you on reading and getting used to it, it probably is the way to get it eventually.

Nonetheless, I was interested in native English speaker’s point of view, what they do when they write.
Or any native speaker of a language where the pronunciation doesn’t match the written form.
You said how you’d check it on spelling when done and that’s fine.
You didn’t tell me what you do in the process.


Rule number one in language learning. Forget your native language. The only time you need your native language is to get the first “hint” or “skyhook” into the meaning of a word in a bilingual dictionary. From then on you want to immerse yourself in the language. You will gradually get a feel for its unique structures, what words mean in the new language. You have to try to avoid thinking that your own language is relevant. Even words appear similar to words in your own language, they may be used quite differently.

The same is true for the writing system and spelling. In learning Russian it took me a while to react to the Russian letters “p” and “b”, because they also exist in English. But in Russian they sound like “r” and “v”. Even if I understood that logically it was only with enough practice that I started getting it right most of the time when I write. Russian is also not consistent, and it is hard to remember when an "a’ sound is writing with an “a” and when it is written with an “o”. Thank you, pronounced “spasiba” is written spasibo. спасибо .

You have to rely on what you read, and relate the sounds to what you read. English spelling is not completely random. It follows certain patterns, not as consistent or simple as we would like, but there are patterns. Only with enough exposure and practice can you get used to it. If you rely on Slovak you will only be making it harder for yourself.

I have typed quickly so I hope I have not made any spelling mistakes!

Of course I did make mistakes but I do not always have the time to check my typing. Please forgive.

No worries, I can bear a few mistakes :slight_smile:
I assure you I would like to forget my native language. If you know how to do such a thing, just let me know:)
Just kindding of course, that was not the point anyway. I never thought my own language was relevant for learning a new one.

I perfectly understand what you’re saying here and in your posts and articles and agree with you on almost everything mostly based on my very own experience. And I do follow many of your recomendations too.

Slovak language has stricly regular pronunciation and sound and written representation match each other almost exactly.
The native English speaker’s brain has to be trained in two ways of recognizing the words. My has not.(Really don’t know whether that matters at all) When I hear a new word never heard before I know exactly how to write it without any need to guess.
There are some exceptions though when a rule is to be applied. These form such a small part of the language that is nothing compared to English. However, I don’t need to use the rule to decide if I feel what is correct, let alone it comes automatically. I suppose this ability comes from lots of reading and perceiving the language generally and is the same for English I guess. Is it?

My enquiry may be a bit off point in language learning and knowing the answer surely is not crucial. The point was that while writing in English I voice the words either out loud or in my head. And having been used to transcribe that voice literally I often tend to write the English as is pronounced. Especially for the words I’m not fully familiar with or for the long and complicated ones. You would not believe how that sucks. Well, you may would. (Speling alone is not the problem for me I can do it well enough)
Then what I usually do is I slow down and pronounce the word the way it would sound if it was a Slovak word. And it sucks too. There surely is a better way, isn’t there? :slight_smile:

And out of pure curiosity I wonder what do native English speakers do when they write.
Do they speak to themselves and visualize the correct form at the same time?
Do they ever realize that they do that or whatever is they do? Or is the process automatic up to the point it is not obvious what’s happening?
Or being unemployed did I just end up asking dumb questions.
I have tried observing my language this way while writing and it is not as easy as it could seem to be.

Slowing the time down could help solve this and when get a job and save some money I will give a hypnosis a shot. I also plan on having let myself forgotten my native language to be forced to use English only. I will let you know how it went.
If I won’t I went nuts.

Thank you for your time.

I guess Portuguese is somewhat in the middle, not being so regular as Slovak neither so irregular as English.
How much English do you listen to? Since I started to use LinqQ and therefore listen to a lot of spoken English, the words I’m trying to write appear in my mind as they are spoken in English, just as it happens with my native language. And since I’ve been studying so much English, sometimes when I’m writing in Portuguese, I start to type some syllabes in English!! It happens with syllabes that have similar sounds, but rather different spelling.
For example (“de” in Portuguese and “the” have very similar sounds, so very often I end up writing a lot of "the"s in my Portuguese texts where I intended to write “de”.
So, my hint for you is to listen to your items while reading more frequently, so you can reinforce the connection between the sounds and the spelling.

You may be right anapuala.
I re-started learning English a few years ago and have listened to hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours of different content. Lots of it repeatedly.
Though almost never have read what I was listening to.
I would agree that the connection to written form is being created when listening to the sound at the same time. Your misspelling issue is kind of evidence.
Therefore your hint I consider being good to follow. That goes to Mona too.