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A. van Staden1, A. Tolmie1, E. Vorster2

1University of the Free State, Faculty of Humanities (SOUTH AFRICA)
2University of the Free State, Faculty of Education (SOUTH AFRICA)
Research confirms the multifaceted nature of spelling development and underscores the importance of both cognitive and linguistic skills that affect sound spelling development such as working and long-term memory, phonological and orthographic awareness, mental orthographic images, semantic knowledge and morphological awareness. This has clear implications for many South African English second language spellers (L2) who attempt to become proficient spellers. Since English has an opaque orthography, with irregular spelling patterns and insufficient sound/grapheme correspondences, L2 spellers can neither rely, nor draw on the phonological awareness skills of their first language (for example Sesotho and many other African languages), to assist them to spell the majority of English words. Epistemologically, this research is informed by social constructivism. Besides this, the researchers also hypothesized that the principles of the overlapping waves theory was an appropriate lens through which to investigate whether L2 spellers could significantly improve their spelling skills via the implementation of an alternative route to spelling development, namely the orthographic route, and more specifically via the application of visual imagery. Post-test results confirmed the results of previous research that argues for the interactive nature of different cognitive and linguistic systems such as working memory and its subsystems and long-term memory, as learners were systematically guided to store visual orthographic images of words in their long-term lexicons. Moreover, the results have shown that L2 spellers in the experimental group significantly outperformed L2 spellers in the control group whose intervention involved phonological awareness (and coding) including the teaching of spelling rules. Consequently L2 learners in the experimental group significantly improved in all the post-test measures included in this study, namely, spelling, reading, reading comprehension and short-term memory span.