Happy 50 Blogs!

I hope you liked last week’s poem J. Today we reach another milestone in the life of the ETC International College blog. The fiftieth edition! Goodness me, how time flies. As promised, here are some more tips for developing your spelling. We’ve already considered the LOOK – COVER – WRITE – CHECK technique, and how it helps to look for groups of letters within words, now here’s another one. If you’re trying to remember what a word looks like in your visual memory, try changing the colour of the word.


If it’s written in black, change it to a colour you like, your favourite colour perhaps, and have it on a different background. Maybe have it written in blue on a red background or something! If you really fancy the idea, why not have the word written in flashing electric blue neon on a pink and yellow spotted background! It’s entirely up to you, as long as it helps you to remember!


If you are reading this as a teacher, why not try these techniques out with your learners? And don’t do spelling tests where you just read out the word; do them visually. Write each word on a card, hold them up for five seconds, then ask the students to pick up their pens and write down the words from memory. I’ve even done it successfully with word order!


So, let’s raise a glass to the next 50 weeks! Back soon. J


Time for a test.

Welcome back to the ETC International College, Bournemouth. blog. We’ve already established that the best way to become an excellent speller is to learn to do it visually, so today I’d like to pass on another tip.

Look for words which have the same patterns; the same letter combinations. ‘Test’ yourself on the following group of words. First identify the three letters each word contains, then cover the whole list and ‘see’ how many you can remember. Do it ‘visually’ though. If you’re as old as me, you’ll possibly find it tricky!

nuclear                      early                              learn                            heart                            heard

                   earth                         fearful                         weary                          teardrop

wearable                 disappear          swear                           menswear                       yearning


I know people who, having visualised the entire English alphabet, can tell me which letter comes between two others by simply retrieving the picture from their visual memory. Unfortunately, never having been shown this technique, I have to run through the entire alphabet from the beginning!

Of course, eventually you have to vocalise because you need to know what they sound like, but remember, this isn’t the way to develop good spelling.

Last week was National Poetry Day and we celebrated here with the annual poetry competition. One of the poems we use is called ‘Gust Becos I Cud Not Spel, by Brian Patten.  Check it out at the following address. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/gust-becos-i-cud-not-spel/

Until next time, happy spelling!

Happy Birthday!

Welcome back. This ETC International College, Bournemouth blog, has now entered its second year, so Happy Birthday to Us J Yeeah! Now where were we? Oh yes, spelling. Last week we established that the way to become an excellent speller was to learn to spell visually. It’s not what a word sounds like, but what it looks like, that’s important. So, here’s the way to do it: LOOK – COVER – WRITE – CHECK

First, LOOK carefully at the word you want to learn how to spell; notice any visual clues to help you remember. Take a mental photograph of it. (Sometimes, actually blinking like a camera can help).

Then, COVER it with a piece of blank paper.

Now, WRITE it again, from memory.

Finally, CHECK to see if you’ve done it accurately.

If you’ve got it right, well done! Move on to the next word. If you’ve made any mistakes, leave it alone. Make NO changes. Just repeat the whole process again until you get it right.

You may think it’s time-consuming, but you get faster and once you’ve trained your eye to notice patterns, you can speed up significantly! Until next week, here are some words to practise on, apparently the three most misspelt words in English!  #3 – definitely   #2 – pharaoh and #1 publicly.


Welcome back everyone. Today I thought we’d have a complete departure from the grammar and the pronunciation of recent weeks by looking at how we can improve our spelling. When I was a ‘young’ teacher working in Saudi Arabia, over twenty years ago, I was introduced to two guys who would become very important in my professional development. Their names were Charles Cripps and Roy Bushell. They had written a book called ‘Spelling – A Visual Approach’. It was a very slim book, published by the ‘Home and School Council’ in 1994, and it taught me three very important things about spelling:

  • we must rely on what we see, not what we hear
  • we must develop our visual skills
  • A good reader is not necessarily a good speller

I carried this advice with me and used it successfully with the Arabic speakers in my classes. Arabic is spelled how it is written, so once you know the letters, you can work out how to say it, and once you’ve heard it, you can work out how to spell it. Unfortunately, English doesn’t work like this, although maybe it once did! Take for example the word ‘through’! Precisely! In the next couple of weeks we’ll look at how I help learners in my classes at ETC Bournemouth to improve their spelling. See you soon.


Hi, I hope you liked last week’s blog. Michael Lewis, in his book ‘The English Verb’, uses the term ‘bi-punctual’ to talk about the -ing form, as it has two points, and I’ve found it very helpful. The –ing form can refer to the duration of a period ‘before the point now’, (I was watching TV) after the point now, (I might be watching TV) or, as in this case, beginning before the point ‘now’ and ending after the point ‘now’. (See blog 6 for more on this). If the writer says ‘I’m missing you’ (s)he perceives a particular period of time, with a start point before ‘now’ and a finish point after ‘now’. ‘I miss you’, means, the writer doesn’t perceive a time when the ‘missing’ will cease. L

The two tenses, traditionally known as ‘the present simple’ and ‘the past simple’ are, in Michael Lewis’ words, ‘mono-punctual’, the speaker not wanting to give anything but the bare essentials, no ‘extra’ information. Here at ETC, we think about language. J Until next time, byeee.

Happy Anniversary!

Welcome back everyone. It’s now almost twelve months since I began this blog for ETC International College, in the beautiful town of Bournemouth, on the sunny south coast of England. Way back in blog 6, October 30th last year, I wrote about ‘tense’ and ‘aspect’ and the ‘-ing’ form. I think it’s now time to revisit the theme. Also, it’s quite a while since we had a poem, so I thought I’d throw in one of those too.


The –ing


The –i-n-g

has a start point and a finish point.

It is bi-punctual,


Its focus is on duration,

the bit in-between the start point,

and the finish point.


The infinitive,

on the other hand,

has no finish.

It is mono-punctual.


It is a state.

Without end.

For ever and ever.





I miss you.

My name is John.

Hi everyone! We’ve just had a brilliant Bournemouth Air Show weekend, with a great view of the Red Arrows from the Cliffs near to ETC. Anyway, let’s get back down to earth and continue our journey into English pronunciation land. So far, we’ve passed through the enchanted forest of long and short vowels, tackled the swamp of diphthongs, climbed the mountains of consonants (voiced and unvoiced) and today have arrived at Affricate Harbour, the place where two consonant sounds begin as plosives and end as fricatives.

The two sounds in question are /ʧ/ as in ‘cherry’ /ʧerɪ/ and /ʤ/ as in Jerry /ʤerɪ/. Once again you can see the voiced, unvoiced distinction.

My name is John, /ʤɒn/, as you know, but maybe what you didn’t know was that I have Austrian relatives. The sound /ʤ/, ironically, doesn’t exist in German, so my Austrian relatives substitute with the sound /ʧ/, which is the nearest equivalent. I am therefore /ʧɒn/.  Other interesting words containing affricates are ‘cheering’ and ‘jeering’, and my friend Jilly who often sounds a bit cold! Until next week. Cheers! /ʧɪəz/