Phonics vs. Spelling

Since when does phonics trump spelling in signage?

The second definition of phonics in my dictionary says, “a method of teaching beginners to read and pronounce words by learning the phonetic value of letters, letter groups and esp. syllables.”

I agree this is valuable as a way to teach people English. I remember tutoring a few students in phonetics while I was in college, and the fundamental difficulty was to completely divorce yourself from the accepted spelling of the word and just write down the sounds you hear. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

I take issue with this sign because they are not keeping the issues of phonics and spelling separate. I’m not sure if it was meant to be funny, if it’s an error, or if it was meant to send the message that this group teaches English phonically.

Consider this: if I am here from another country, looking for an ESL consultant (very likely in my community), and I come across this sign, I might try to look up “kope” in my English dictionary. It’s not going to be there, and that will be even more frustrating. I suggest we stop trying to be clever and cute and, in situations like this, try to be helpful instead.


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Filed under English Language, spelling

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