Spelling in English, not as easy as A,B,C…!!

We thought it would be a good idea to go over some English spelling rules in this blog post. Now spelling in English is tough! That’s a kind of Chuck Norris kind of tough! 😉 You know that something has to be tricky when they have regional and national competitions in a country! In America they hold what they call spelling bees to help kids learn to spell (Could be helpful for some adults too). So why is spelling in English so tricky? Well, that’s simply because the way a word is pronounced has nothing to do with the way it’s spelt! Now we can blame this on phonemes and graphemes! We will explain… phonemes are the smallest units of sounds in a language. If a phoneme is changed, the word may change, e.g. change the s sound in ‘sack’ to a b and the word changes to ‘back’. In total there are around 43.5, phonemes, now you ask around 43.5? That’s a bit vague. Well, this is because this is a controversial issue and there are people arguing about if there are this number or that number, and if you have one accent or another, so we will go with an article published in the English spelling society that states 43,5, but to keep everyone happy we say around. 😉 You can have a read here if you want to check them out. You’d think that with only this number of phonemes it would be easy to spell, wrong! And this is where graphemes come into play; graphemes are the smallest units in a writing system capable of causing a contrast in meaning. In the English alphabet, the switch from fat to mat introduces a meaning change; therefore, f and m represent different graphemes and you can get graphemes that signal whole words or word parts. A study calculated that in English there are 13,7 spellings per sound and just 3.5 per letter[1]. So what does that mean?? That to spell correctly is very difficult (and should not be left to chance)!!

So here at www.enunciateonline.com we’ve decided to give you a hand and give you some rules so you can get all Bruce lee on Chuck Norris (Way of the dragon) 😉

Our first rule is to do with the letter Y. When we add an ending to a word that ends in -Y- we usually change the -Y- to -I-.

Body-bodily, fury-furious, marry-marriage. This being English there are some exceptions! Firstly, there is no change if there is an -I- after the -Y- as in try-trying, baby-babyish. Secondly, we don’t change the -Y- to an -I- if the -Y- comes after a vowel; buy-buying, play-played. And finally, we change -IE- to -Y- before adding –ING; die-dying, lie-lying.

The next rule is to do with doubling the final consonant. We sometimes double the final consonant at the end of a word before adding – ED- -ER- -EST- -ING- -ABLE- -Y- or any other ending that begins with a vowel. So stop-stopped, sit-sitting. Now you ask, which consonants are doubled? well here you go;


B: rub-rubbing N: win-winner
D: sad -adder P: stop-stopped
G: big-bigger R: prefer-preferred
L: travel-traveller T: sit-sitting
M: slim-slimmer

As you might have guessed, we only double the consonant at the end of a word, you can clearly see this in hop and hope, ‘I hopped to the side of the field after I injured myself’ and ‘I hoped that we would be able to beat Chuck Norris´. 😉

Furthermore, we only double the consonant if it comes after a vowel, so fat-fatter but fast-faster. Moreover, (how many conjunctive adverbs can we come up with today?) 😉 we only double the consonant on stressed syllables, just to complicate things a bit more, so upset-upsetting but visit – visiting. Although in British English they stress most words after a vowel letter, and even in the case of unstressed syllables they double the consonant, e.g. travel-travelling, whilst in American English it’s only spelt with one L- traveling. Ah, those pesky differences 😛

And the last bit of additional information that we will add to this is that if a word ends in -C- we add a K before the suffixes –ED- ER- ING- etc. So picnic- picnickers mimic-mimicked.

And our final spelling rule is to do with the letter -E-, when a word ends in an -E- you remove the -E- before a suffix that begins with a vowel but not before a suffix that begins with a consonant. Need an example to picture it clearly? OK, here it goes; ride-riding


We hope that you’ve found our spelling rules helpful, look out Chuck! 😉 At www.encunciateonline.com we look forward to seeing you soon and helping you to communicate clearly in English.




[1]David Crystal, How Language Works. Penguin, 2007

False friends a.k.a false cognates

This month we thought our blog post should be on false friends a.k.a[1] false cognates[2]. In life you will come across some false friends, and when speaking a foreign language you’ll encounter them too! And in both cases you can end up looking a bit silly, but at least with a language you’ll get over it quickly and with www.enunciateonline.com you will hopefully avoid making a few mistakes with them.

Now, there is a difference between false friends and false cognates but we won’t bore you with that, what’s important for you is they they both have the same outcome, you can end up with egg on your face! How do you like yours done? 😉 (Look for this idiom on our weekly idiom post on Facebook, Twitter and g+) What we will do is give you a few false friends in English with German and Spanish with English and hopefully you will find them useful.

So let’s begin with some typical false friends in Spanish and English. The first one up is Library. Now in English a library is a building or room with a collection of books whereas “librería” in Spanish is where you go and buy the books, the bookshop, the Spanish equivalent of library is “biblioteca”. So, if you want to study go to the library and if you want to buy the books to “la liberiía”.

The next one up is deception, in English, deception means something that is done to make you believe something that is not true; i.e. “It was all a deception! My English isn’t improving”. Something that we don’t do at enunciateonline, we let you know if you’re really learning English 😉 “decepción” in Spanish means to fail to fulfil your hopes or expectations, the English equivalent is disappoint.   Deception in Spanish is “engaño”.

Finally we have letter. In English a letter can be a written type of communication. (When was the last time you wrote a letter and not an e-mail?)The Spanish equivalent is “carta” whilst in Spanish “una letra” is a letter of the alphabet but can never be “ carta”.

Now lets look at our false friends between English and German. First up we have the word bald, now in English this means to be follicly challenged, like kojak, just google it and you’ll see. 😉 Now in German this means soon whereas bald is   “kahl”. So you can go “Bald Kahl”. 😉

Secondly, we have handy, now in English if something is handy it is useful and convenient, now in German, “handy” is a mobile phone. Yes a mobile is very handy but in German “das handy ist handlich”. Learning English vía Skype is handy and you can learn English on your “Handy”.

Last but not least we have rat, now in English these guys have some very bad press, the plague…etc. but they are very intelligent animals and from things that are intelligent may we can get some of what the word means in German because in German “Rat” means advice. Can you imagine saying ‘Let me give you a piece of “Rat”’. Which part would that be, the tail? Or we are going to have a new “Rat” section on our website. 😉 A rat is “Ratte” in German.

False friends are a tricky thing and they require a lot of study, everyone can be caught out because it’s great to use cognates to learn, as they will always help you to learn much more quickly and comforting to make links between the languages, but you have to be careful and have a teacher point out the false friends that are waiting for you to put your foot in it. But at www.enunciateonline.com we will be more than glad to help you learn these false friends with our English lessons via Skype and get you communicating clearly.



[1] A false cognate is a word that is the same in two languages, they have different meanings but the root of the word is different and, a false friend is a word that has a similar root but has a different meaning in both languages.

[2]A.k.a= Also known as

The tricky world of homophones!!!

We thought it would be nice to do this blog post on homophones. Now some of you might be saying homo what?? So we will explain. Homophones are defined by the Cambridge dictionary as: A word that sounds the same or is spelled the same as another word but has a different meaning. Now these words can really drive you up the wall and quite easily make you put your foot in it.

So in this post we will go over a few of them and explain the difference between the words and thus hopefully help you to avoid making these mistakes!! Aren’t we kind at enunciate online. J

We will start it off with bare and bear. Bare means to be without any clothes or not covered by anything. i.e. to be butt naked ( the way you were brought into this world). 😉 It can also mean empty, unfinished, revealing i.e. to bare one’s soul.   Whilst bear means: (apart from the big furry thing) to carry, to have or display a visible mark or feature, to be called by, to conduct yourself in a certain way, to support, take responsibility for, to accept or stand something, endure, tolerate, to give birth to and finally to turn and proceed. Wow, how many different meanings!!! So here are some examples of bear. E.g. the soldiers were bearing machine guns; he bore the surname Jones, He bore the sign of the beast, I can’t bear to part with my old comics, she bore six kids and finally, bare left when you reach the traffic lights.

So how do you make the distinction?? Apart from having lessons via Skype with enunciate online you can remember that anything to do with nakedness, uncovering or revealing is bare, the rest of the meanings will be bear.

Another set of wonderful homophones are witch and which. Now a witch is what normally sits on a broomstick and has a large nose and makes spells, whereas which is a relative pronoun that refers to something previously mentioned or gives more information. A way of remembering, which is which 😉 is to say the sentence: The witch had an itch. As only a person can have an itch you will know which one you are talking about and if you add the w to itch you get…. J

Lose and loose can also cause some unpleasant moments. It wouldn’t be the first time we have seen someone make this mistake. So what’s the difference? Firstly, one is a verb: to lose. Real Madrid will lose the match and the second is an adjective, I have a loose tooth. A good way to remember is with this mnemonic: If I lose any more weight, my jeans will be too loose.J

And last but not least, our last homophones for this post are weather and whether. Now this is another typical mistake that a lot of people make. Weather is a noun and refers to the state of the atmosphere. Whether is a conjunction and expresses a doubt or a choice between alternatives. A nice way to remember which is which is that the weather has an effect on what you eat. In the word weather you can see the word eat. Hopefully our post has helped you to clear up some doubts that you may have. At www.enunciateonline.com  we will be more than glad to teach you more tricks like these with our English lessons via Skype and get you communicating clearly.

British English and American English

If it wasn’t hard enough just learning a language like English you then have to make at some point distinctions between formal and informal, and then between British and American English.

This doesn’t mean that an American and a Brit wouldn’t understand each other if they started up a conversation in a bar, well, that depends on the amount of alcohol they have had J However, both would know exactly what they were talking about, just that some of the grammatical structures each of them used, the vocab, spelling and above all the pronunciation would be different.

You could say they are like half brothers, they share the same DNA from one of the parents but they each have their own personality due to their surroundings and that makes them different. You could say daddy was a bit promiscuous, as there are a multitude of types of English out there, Australian, Canadian…. But today we won’t talk about daddy sowing his seed and we will be focusing on the most known, British and American English. 🙂

So what are these differences? Firstly, lets look at the differences in spelling. The reason that some words are spelt differently in American English compared to British English is because of a man called Noah Webster, Jr. He believed that words should be spelt as how they sound. (Quite reasonable I think, don’t you?) Furthermore, by changing the spelling in America of certain words he felt that this helped Americans to have their own cultural identity. So now in America people spell color as opposed to colour and realize instead of realise and center rather than centre, and that’s just to mention a few.

Ok, lets move onto the vocab. Now I remember the first time as a kid I heard on an American TV show someone say that they had just bought a new pair of pants. I thought, that’s strange information to share, and more so when they said look. I quickly realised that pants in America meant trousers whilst in Britain it meant your underwear. So Superman wears his pants over his trousers or his underwear over his pants, it depends on which type of English you’re using J. There are tons of nuances like this. In British English you say lift and in American English you say elevator and the list goes on: sidewalk v pavement, diaper v nappy. But guess what?? Through context we can more or less understand what they mean and if your watching a TV series or a film, you have visual aids to help.

When it comes down to the grammar there are a few differences. The biggest one would be with the use of the present perfect. Now this is a tense used a lot in British English. It’s used to show that an action from the past is connected with the present. For example, I would say, “I have already eaten” whilst in American English a person would say, “I already ate”. Moreover, in British English people use the contacted form of have with got. In Britain you would say, “I’ve got one younger brother” whereas in America you would say, “I have one younger brother” and they mean exactly the same thing!!

And the last difference we will look at is pronunciation. The Queen’s English or as we would say Received Pronunciation and General American pronunciation are very different. Received pronunciation is the way a TV presenter usually speaks, very clear and trying to vocalise and General American is the way American TV presenters speak, following the same pattern as their English colleagues, very clear and so on. Now everyone has a different accent and if we delve deeply into the realms of pronunciation we would begin talking about alveolar and so on and your eyes would glaze over and you’d stop reading this blog post, and that’s the last thing we want!! So what we will do is give a brief example and say that in the General American accent they pronounce the r (being rhotic) and in an English accent they don’t (non-rhotic). For example the way someone in America pronounces the word bark. They clearly pronounce the word R whereas a person speaking with Received Pronunciation accent doesn’t. However, understanding a person’s accent is a question of time.  Remember the 10,000 hour rule from one of our previous posts???

The more you are exposed to a type of accent the easier it will be for you to understand it and you’ll pick it up too. So, if you live in America you’ll pick up an American accent and if you are in certain parts of Britain a British accent. Both types of English are as just as valid, what you must remember that if you are writing or doing something in one of the types of English, whether British English or American, you must use the same all the time, if you jump from one version to the other you’re likely to drive the other person a bit crazy and if you’re doing an exam will you lose marks due to that as the examiner will view it as a mistake. So don`t hesitate and start learning British English or American English today at www.enunciateonline.com .  At www.enunciateonline.com we will be more than happy to teach you with our English lessons via Skype the difference between the two and get you speaking the one you want to clearly.

Different ways of learning English.

We thought that the natural progression for the following blog post should be that we talk about the different ways that you can learn English seeing that we’ve covered the importance of learning a second language and how long it takes to learn a second language.

First things first, divine inspiration doesn’t work!! Speaking in tongues is not English 😉 Now that we’ve got that out of the way we can look at a few of the different ways of learning English.

The first ones we will look at are classroom-based lessons. Now a lot of different categories fall under this one. Two of the most common are the direct or sometimes called natural method of language learning or the grammar-translation method of learning a language. Both of these have their merits and seeing as each person is different one method or the other will fit them best. Phew!! Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we were all the same! Imagine everyone looked like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 😉  With the classroom-based lessons you have a set timetable where you turn up and hopefully learn. The good thing with this is that it provides you with a structure, you know exactly when you have to go for your lessons. The bad thing is that it doesn´t provide you with much flexibility, and if you are run off your feet with work it can be hard to find the time to fit in your lessons into this rigid schedule. Both of these methods, the direct method and the grammar translation method are great and no one should ever tell you this one is better than the other, as what works for somebody else may not work for you! But what they both have in common is that you are normally in a class with other people.  A teacher is present to clear up any doubts, motivate you as you move along and you also get to make new friends with your fellow classmates or maybe a nemesis, a bit of classroom rivalry can spice things up. 😉

Of these classroom-based lessons we can look at the two different types we mentioned before in a little bit more detail. First of all there is the direct method, this method lets you learn a language through doing everything in the target language that you are learning and you are taught grammar inductively. Primarily you do a lot of speaking and listening. It’s pretty much how kids go about learning a language. It tries to teach you useful everyday expressions that you will build up and add to as you go along.

Next up is the translation-grammar based method. Here you are taught grammatical rules which you then apply to the language you are learning and translate it. Have any of you studied Latin? Well just like that, remember the old rosa, rosa, rosam, rosae, rosae rosa?? Oh the memories!!! Some people find this method perfect for them as it is very structured. The method lets you know where you stand once you know the rules, and more importantly the exceptions!! Not many in English!! 😉

The next way of learning English would be through self-study with books and DVDS and in the past CDS and cassettes. This method can have great results if you follow the course book and instructions correctly. Most are interactive and keep you fairly engaged and above all provides you with flexibility if you have a busy schedule. However, you don’t get any feedback as to the mistakes you might be making and above all learning English in any situation requires a lot of self-motivation and when it’s self-study even more! So tempting to put your feet up once you get home and say, “I’ll study tomorrow”.

The last category that we will talk about is online learning. The great thing here is that just like self-study, learning online provides you with flexibility, most places have some form of Internet connection available so you can more or less study anytime, anywhere you want. If you are learning online via Skype then the fact is that most of the time it’s just you and the teacher. This means that you can make the most out of the lesson and hopefully improve a lot faster as you can focus directly on your mistakes and problems. The cons are that you don’t have any colleagues with whom to talk things over with and the lessons are a little bit more expensive, but as we said before it’s just you and the teacher so you have their undivided attention.

At the end of the day deciding which method is best for you is a question of trial and error and seeing what really works for you. If you want and feel that learning online is the way to go because of the flexibility and the fact that the lessons are one on one then get in touch with us at www.enunciateonline.com for your English lessons via Skype and we will be more than glad to give you a hand in learning to communicate in English.

How long does it take to learn a second language?

This is the million-dollar question! How long does it take to learn a second language and above all English?  I’m sure every one would love for me to give a set time frame, study for 1000 hours and you’ll be fluent, but that’s not possible. Some can spend a lifetime and never really learn their own mother tongue (Just look at some of the mistakes some celebs make when speaking their own language, a future blog post beckons! yet alone another language. However, there are some things that can help you to learn a lot quicker and there are some numbers for the length of time that some individuals have given, we can look at those too, but ultimately second language acquisition is hard, complex and only for masochists (only kidding!!).

So what can you do to learn a second language as quickly as possible? Well the first thing is to sign up to somewhere where you can be taught that language with great teachers. (Such as at www.enunciateonline.com where else? ;-). Now with that out of the way we can begin to look at some of the variables that make it extremely complicated to give an exact figure.

Firstly, your age plays a crucial factor, and the younger you start the better, it’s what is known as the “critical period hypothesis” meaning that you learn the language in a different way and ultimately reach a higher level.[1] For those that haven’t started at a young age don’t despair, it’s still attainable; it’s just going to take a bit more sweat to get there (remember the masochist remark???).

The second variable is“ How quickly will I learn if I live in the country of my chosen language (majority language)? Or “How quickly will I learn if I learn the language in my home country (minority language)?[2]  It goes without saying that if you are in a majority language situation you should learn a lot quicker than in a minority language situation as you come in contact with the given language during a great deal of time, unless you’re locked up at home, as you are immersed in the language. However, if you can’t manage or permit yourself to move to the U.K to learn the language you can still do lots of things to help you move along at a good pace. For example: watch things in original version as much as you can, and as soon as possible wean yourself off subtitles, it will be hard at first, but after a while you’ll realise that each time you understand more and more! Read the news every day online in English, a great source of vocab and current affairs, and of course, have lots of English lessons.

How many hours I hear you ask? Well…. this all depends on what method you are being sold. Some will tell you for our course you need X amount of hours and others will tell you that you need Y amount of hours.  However, the only concrete thing that can be said is that practice makes perfect, and that means a lot of hours. An article in the Harvard Business review concluded that to reach expertise in something, and not just language training you need to practise for 10,000 hours!!![3] That works out at roughly 416 days without sleep! So when you’re worried that it’s taking you longer than expected to reach your desired goal, don’t worry, 10,000 hours are a lot of hours and at www.enunciateonline.com we will be more than happy to help you whittle down the hours and get you communicating effectively in English.




Whittle down: Phrasal verb: To reduce the number of people or things, or the size of something.

[1] Second Language Acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis. Birdsong, David (Ed.) (1999) Mahaw, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

[2] Archibald, J., Roy, S., Harmel, S., Jesney, K., Dewey, E., Moisik, S., et al. (2006). A review of the literature on second language learning.

[3] Ericsson, K. A., Prietula, M. J., & Cokely, E. T. (2007). The Making of an Expert. Harvard Business Review (July-August ).

Why should i learn a second language?

This indeed is a good question, so why? There are numerous reasons as to why you should learn a second language. We will first start with the most important one and I’ll apologise beforehand if I sound materialistic, but the first answer should be money. It makes the world go round, so they say, and if you speak a second language then you will earn more of it. Firstly, most jobs require that you have a good level of English just to get into the selection phase and secondly there are studies from the U.S. that show that those who speak a second language earn 2% more than those who don’t[1]. You’ve probably just said to yourself, wait, In the U.S. people are learning other languages, not English. That’s true, but what we can extrapolate from this is that whatever country you are in, speaking another language will undeniably help you. Of course, being a market of supply and demand, the smaller the number of local people that speak your chosen second language the more of a commodity you become and this ultimately means that you earn even more1.  Although English is not going to put you in that “exclusive group” as it’s so widely spoken nowadays, it will still provide you with an extra 2% (minimum), which is better than nothing! So what will an extra 2% of your salary buy you?

So what’s next? After money we have…. Health. Well, I could have put this one first on my list. I know, I know! One’s health should be more important than the money you earn, but as a quote I read from the Dalai Lama responding to a question where he was asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said “ Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money, then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health…”. The quote continues but I’ll leave it there as I’m just sticking to man’s priorities, first money and then health! So, back to health…Recent research[2] has shown that being bilingual helps you to counter the onset of Alzheimer disease. Ok, I understand that most won’t become bilingual when learning a second language, but what the study points out is that speaking a second language helps you to contribute to your cognitive reserve, which acts to compensate for the effects of Accumulated neuropathology[3]. What this means in layman’s terms is that your brain becomes stronger and isn´t as badly affected by the disease, so, no need to do a crossword or a Sudoku to build up your cognitive reserve, learn English!!  Not a bad reason I think. There are countless studies being carried out into this area and they seem really interesting, nice food for thought.

And finally, learn a second language and hopefully English so you can travel around the world and be able to communicate with people. Learning a new language such as English, which has become a lingua franca, permits you to communicate with people from all over the world.  How do you expect to be able to communicate with a Russian, a Belgian and a Dane at the same time? Either with a lot of sign language and some alcohol or speaking English of course! Once you can speak English use it to be able to have a drink around the world (it’s great to be able to order your favourite tipple abroad), study in a different country, make new friends, or simply because you’d like to hear an actor’s original voice. Trust me, they don’t all sound really butch and manly. If you can speak English nowadays you’ll be able to cross the globe and watch the films on the plane whilst you’re at it in original version, so don’t hesitate and start today at www.enunciateonline.com, we will be more than happy to get you communicating effectively in English.


Food for thought: Idiom: Anything that provides mental stimulus for thinking.

Tipple: (n) Informal: An alcoholic drink

[1] Saiz, A. Zoido, E. (2002) Working paper Nº. 02-16 The Returns to Speaking a Second Language. Federal Reserve Bank Of Philadelphia

[2] Craik, F.I.M; Bialystok, E; Freedman, M. Delaying the onset of Alzheimer disease. Bilingualism as a form of cognitive reserve. Neurology November 9, 2010 vol. 75 no. 19 1726-1729

[3] Bialystok, E; Craik, F.I.M; Luk, G. Bilingualism: consequences for mind and brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 16, Issue 4, 240-250, 30 March 2012.