A Master of Arts thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) by Mohannad Thaher Al Jayousi entitled, "Spelling Errors of Arab Students: Types, Causes and Teachers' Responses," submitted in June 2011. Available are both hard and soft copies of the thesis.
It has been noted that many learners of English, including Arab learners in UAE public schools exhibit difficulties with English spelling. These difficulties have been attributed to a number of causes, such as the irregularity of the orthographic system of English and mother tongue interference. These spelling difficulties cause learners to commit many spelling errors that distort their written production, affecting negatively their overall writing proficiency. In addition to the negative effect of poor spelling on writing proficiency, it has been argued that many poor spellers have problems with reading. Therefore, overall research has emphasized the importance of spelling for developing competent second language users. The purpose of this study was to investigate how big the spelling problem is among Arab learners of English in UAE public schools, identify the commonest types and likeliest causes of their spelling errors, and measure how much progress they achieve in spelling proficiency as they move to higher grades. An additional purpose of the study was to investigate teachers' perceptions of the spelling problems of Arab learners of English, attitudes towards teaching spelling, and practices in spelling. To answer these inquiries, students' spelling errors were collected and analyzed from compositions written by over 537 male students from four different educational levels, Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. Frequency of spelling errors for each grade was calculated and compared to the other grades. Then, errors were categorized according to their types and likely causes for each grade. Variations in performance between the four levels were noted and analyzed. Teachers' perceptions, attitudes and practices were investigated using questionnaires and interviews. Results show that the frequency of spelling errors in students' written production is high and that students show insignificant progress as they graduate from high school. The spelling problems in UAE public schools at these levels appear to be resistant to instruction in that students in the different levels have similar spelling problems. Additionally, the teacher survey and interview results demonstrate that little attention is given to this problem. Spelling activities are very rare in textbooks, the participating teachers do not receive any training on how to teach spelling, they do not devote adequate time to teaching spelling, and some teachers have misconceptions about the nature of spelling problems, their causes and effective ways of responding to them.