Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Use of Drills and Secondary School Students' Achievement in the English Language Spelling

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Use of Drills and Secondary School Students' Achievement in the English Language Spelling

Article excerpt


English Language is the primary language of the majority of people in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, other former colonies of Britain, and territories of the United States. It is also an official or semi-official language of many countries with a colonial past, such as India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa. Even in countries where English is not a primary or official language, it is taught as a foreign language and used as the language of technology and diplomacy. English language is spoken in more parts of the world and by more people than any other language, except Chinese (Ker, 2002).

In Nigeria for instance, English language was introduced when the Great Britain colonized territories in Africa. Being a multi-lingual country, Nigeria has since adopted the English language as her Lingua Franca. As a matter of fact, of the entire heritages that were left behind by her colonial masters, probably none is more important than the English language. It has now become the language of government, business, commerce, education, the mass media, literature and much internal as well as international communication.

Apart from speech, which is informal, reading and writing are very important communication skills for everyone, especially for students in a formal set-up. To write well, one has to spell well. However, Bell (2004) observed that many students find spelling very difficult because they equate spoken words to the written form. They reason that if a writing system closely mirrors the spoken word, then differences in written forms will indicate differences in pronunciation and language usage. Nonetheless, those familiar with English orthography (spelling) know that this is not always the case.

Both speakers of English as their native language, and those who speak it as a second language, regard the spelling of English as one of its most difficult characteristics. The English spelling system is not based on a phonetic correspondence between sounds and letters, as is the spelling in Spanish and certain other languages. Instead, English spelling reflects the historical development of the language. The same combination of letters can produce different pronunciations (Okoli, 2000). Similarly, different combinations of letters can produce the same pronunciation. The six different pronunciations of 'ough' provide an apt example of the discrepancy between spelling and pronunciation, as in bough, cough, thorough, thought, through, and rough. Although -ough is spelt the same in each of these words, it is pronounced in six different ways. Again, the letter 'i' is pronounced '/i/' in the word 'fish'. The same letter is pronounced '/ai/' in 'find'. Furthermore, the 'a' in 'cap' is pronounced / æ/, while the same letter is pronounced /a:/ in 'class' and /a/ in 'above'. These differences in pronunciation make up one reason why English is considered a difficult language for non-native speakers to learn (McAthur & McAthur, 2001).

This problem might well explain the poor performance of students in WAEC-organized examinations in Nigeria, especially in the English language. In fact, Fatuase (2010) analyzed the results of the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations of candidates who obtained credit passes in at least five subjects, including the English language and mathematics and concluded that it was worrisome. For the year 2005, it was 27.53% of the total population of candidates. In 2006, it was 15.56%, 25.54% in 2007, 13.76% in 2008 and 25.99% in 2009.

In summary, he complains that:

It is disheartening to note that some candidates are unmindful of their handwritings. Some of them cannot write some of the letters and numbers properly and this makes scoring of their responses not only difficult but also inaccurate. No matter how brilliant a student is, his intelligence will come to naught if he cannot manifest it by way of accurate response to questions before him in an examination (p. …

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