Let’s not add to confusion

English is very open to misunderstanding because of the number of homophones we have. Some are not spelt the same way – but when you hear examples there is scope for confusion – and of course non-readers cannot visualise both spellings. When the homophones occur in situations where the words have ‘jargon’ meanings linked to a topic, it makes it really difficult for children with weak language skills and slow auditory processing.

Two such examples occurred recently:

  • An IEP item included the target to learn to do word sums with addition and subtraction ‘and to be able to tell the difference’. Since the numerical concept of ‘difference’ is one that some children find really difficult to master, ‘the difference’ could be replaced with ‘which is which’. Since ‘which’ is another homophone word, the whole item should probably be rephrased altogether!
  •  Talking about the Numicon pieces each player held in a game, an adult commented, ‘I’ve got a 2 too.’ When you hear that sort of utterance come out, you can revise it immediately: ‘I mean I’ve got a 2 as well.’ Did you ever laugh at the following silly ditty?
Wunwun was a race horse
Tutu was one too
Wunwun won one race one day
Tutu won one too.

As adult speakers, we can try to think ahead about words that can be avoided in some situations and use e.g. correct/right, difficult/hard, as well/too… Listen out and you are sure to hear other examples which might have been expressed more clearly.

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