If you teach a Spanish for Spanish Speakers course (or Spanish for heritage speakers, Spanish for Native speakers) you are probably aware that students make many spelling mistakes. Not only that; spelling mistakes seem to be very persistent. No matter how many times we correct them, students keep making the same mistakes. This may cause some frustration in teachers, who keep attempting different methods for addressing these errors.
I want to suggest instructors do something that will not only help (eventually) improve the students’ spelling mistakes, but will also make the task most enjoyable for the instructor: Enjoy and appreciate spelling errors. Conducting research on SHLs’ spelling has made me look at spelling errors differently. In my research, I look at a particular set of errors, errors I think follow a pattern, and I think of ways to find out what is behind that error. But you don’t need to engage in formal research in order to look at misspells in a different way. If you have a classroom, you have a wonderful set of interesting data to enjoy, appreciate, and learn from. For example, if you hear yourself saying things like:
"Why do they write hací instead of así???"
"Why do they keep writing aveses?"
"Why can’t they see it’s a ver and not haber?"
Then, make that question a real one. Look at an error that surprises you, an error that doesn’t seem to have any explanation. For example, hací instead of así. And think about the reason why the student wrote it this way: Is it because we have insisted on the spelling of hacer, and they are writing hací by analogy to hacer and its forms (hice, hacía, etc.)? Or maybe it’s because así seems “too easy” or “too simple,” and they remember a time when they wrote a word the way it seemed easier (as when they wrote “ise” instead of “hice”) and they got it wrong.
Maybe you won’t know for sure the reason why they made that spelling error, but looking at it with real curiosity and feeling really intrigued about it will make dealing with spelling errors much more enjoyable.
BLOG ON SPELLING
This is a blog about spelling in Spanish Heritage Language Learners. Some posts will be in Spanish and some in English. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments section.
Made-up words and other fipers.
Tips for teaching stress marks.
Los hablantes nativos y la ortografía