Writing Tips at GarySpeer.com

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Homophones: Another obstacle for those who would learn English


I confess that my education is sadly lacking in any language besides English. I took a couple of years of Spanish in high school, but that was long ago and far away. So I don’t even know if other languages have something like a “homophone” — but I’m aware of them in English. I suspect homographs are just one more challenge for those who seek to learn spoken and written English.

A homophone is a type of homonym (look it up). Specifically, a homophone is a word which is spelled exactly like another word and pronounced exactly like that word, but has a different meaning, often because the two words had separate origins.

For example, take the word “club.” It can mean an object used to strike a golf ball, as in “golf clubs,” and it can be used to denote a group of people who meet around a common interest, as in “dance clubs.” In both cases, it seems to be the same word, “clubs,” but it really is different. (To make matters more difficult in the example I chose, “golf clubs” can be BOTH.)

A couple of other quick examples of homophones are “address” and “tire.”

Think for a moment about the challenge, if English is your second or third language, which homophones add to the difficulty of learning to speak and write English well. Then, if you’ve grown up in an English speaking nation and culture — be thankful of one more advantage you have.

Now get busy and write something to make us all proud.