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Being able to write in a language is certainly an important skill, but is writing by hand that important? Since a lot of communication is done digitally, I am wondering whether it would be sufficient to roughly know how to spell a word rather than being able to spell it properly - a tricky job, considering the numbers of pitfalls with English and French (my favorite being chamfrein vs chanfrein), where to accent falls on letter (cf. Spanish, French, Romanian, etc.).

So, now is writing by hand a useful skill or can it be overlooked?

I am including the tag because the answer is a clear yes in a class settings where tests are done on papers with pen as your only weapon.

  • It really depends on what your language learning goals are. Do you never expect to write the language? – Nathaniel Apr 6 '16 at 4:44
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    How is this opinion based? I agree that it may be language dependent (for example some Japanese/Chinese learners will totally overlook the skill of being able to write proficiently), English spelling is also difficult to predict based on the sole pronunciation of words (eg. hydraulic, savvy, etc.). So the question is asking whether self-learner can allow themselves not to be very good at spelling and still do their way fine in the target language (since for the writing part a lot is done on computer now). – 永劫回帰 Apr 6 '16 at 6:53
  • I am voting to reopen this question as it is related with Language Learning – Rathony Apr 6 '16 at 7:06
  • "How is this opinion based?" -- What is important depends on situation, goal, and personal opinion. If it's not opinion-based, it's too broad. Is it important for what? – Flimzy Apr 6 '16 at 8:10
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    @Rathony I believe this question is too broad, since the OP hasn't mentioned any languages. – M.A.R. Apr 6 '16 at 9:23
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Correct spelling enhances your ability to communicate as well as your credibility.

Communication

Probably the most obvious reason why it is important to spell words correctly is because by misspelling you can communicate what you didn't intend or possibly even offend somebody. Consider the following example in Spanish:

Yo tengo veinte años. (I am twenty years old.)

Yo tengo veinte anos. (I have twenty anuses.)

There are countless examples where just one letter can cause words to refer to different genders (alto vs. alta), different categories (pico vs. pica), different languages (estoy vs. estou), etc. While it's possible that whoever you're communicating with will figure out what you're trying to say, it's important to know how to spell words correctly so you can communicate as clearly as possible.

Credibility

Beyond communication, employing correct spelling and grammar increases your credibility. Too often speakers of a second language are perceived as being less intelligent than native speakers of that language, so you'll want to tighten that gap as much as you can.

  • I do agree with you on some points but not to full extent. If I am able to speak there is no way that I can confuse ano from año the difference is really significant in pronunciation at least. But for words like words like leccíon he spell checker should be able to give correct lecion or leccion because there is no ambiguities. That is really what I mean by the subtleties of spelling. – 永劫回帰 Apr 6 '16 at 6:48
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    @駑馬十駕 It's up to you how much you want to risk. Sometimes you can get away with not knowing the spelling, sometimes you can't. When learning new languages you have no idea what trouble you can get into, so I recommend putting forth as much effort as you can, including learning how to spell. – intcreator Apr 6 '16 at 7:36
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Apart from the previously raised points, there are languages, where not only correct spelling, but also correct stroke order is necessary. Take for example Japanese katakana. There are two pairs of charachers, so and n (ソ and ン), and shi and tsu (シ and ツ), that are commonly written instead of each other by a beginner. This can lead to a lot of confusion and ultimately to mispronunciations of the worst kind.

Being able to write by hand helped me a lot in Japanese to understand the finer points of pronunciation. Which was also necessary in the digital world of IME, if you do not know how to properly spell the word (or in that case the reading) you will not find the correct kanji, even though these methods are very advanced nowadays.

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I would say it depends somewhat on the language, but absolutely as the general rule.

My thoughts:

  • Digital may be prevalent, but it is not exclusive.
  • Rote learning of written characters can really help, in my experience with learning various fonts
  • You never know when that extra exposure will come in handy

Finally, there are numerous studies of the benefits of hand-writing for both learning and retaining information. These apply to language learning as well as taking notes from a business meeting. I could include urls like this one all day, but I think those searching for studies can find them easily enough.

Is hand writing a modern and required skill in daily life? Probably not, but I believe the evidence points to there is no reason to risk the handicap, especially if it can expedite your learning.

  • absolutely yes as a general rule? – Martin - マーチン Apr 6 '16 at 7:54
  • I can only imagine there is some language that would be the exception... – Austin French Apr 6 '16 at 12:45

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