My struggle with reading, writing & spelling

31st March 2016

My struggle with reading, writing & spelling

“Me fail English? That’s unpossible.” – Ralph Wiggum

Note: This was a hard post for me to write. Partly because it’s a very honest post about something I’m embarrassed about. Partly because I’m rubbish at writing.

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I suck at English. Yes, it’s my first (and really, only) language but I still suck at it. I’ve struggled with reading, writing and spelling for as long as I can remember.

I have an A grade in GCSE in English Language, but this absolutely no reflection on my English skills. The only reason why I got this grade is because I learned how to impress the examiners. I was taught how to work the system, not how to be good at English Language.

I wanted to talk about my problems with reading, writing and spelling because I know I’m not alone and I know I’m not the only one to feel embarrassed about this.

It’s taken me until the age of 22 to speak out and admit this to people and I do regret not mentioning it when I was in education because I might have got tested for dyslexia or something. But that’s just stubborn old me for you.

Reading

When you’re at primary school you are encouraged to read as much as possible at home. I remember that reading to my mum seemed like the biggest chore because I found it difficult and I didn’t enjoy it. My eyes would water and I’d get frustrated with myself for not being able to read the big words.

It would, and still does, take me a very long time to finish a book. The longest book I have ever read was Pete Townshend’s autobiography “Who I Am” and it took me an entire year to read it. Seriously, I got it for Christmas one year and I finished it on Christmas Eve the following year!

Tyrone and I were talking about this recently. I was shocked when he told me that in year 4 (when we were about 8 or 9 years old) he read Jurassic Park. Me? I was reading The Twits by Roald Dahl, and struggling.

English was probably my worst subject at school. In primary school we had to do comprehensions every Monday morning (i.e. read a section of text and answer questions on it to test our understanding of it). By the time everyone had read the entire page, I would be just about finishing the first paragraph.

Then, once we started answering the questions I wouldn’t have a clue because I had lost interest after the first sentence. I’m ashamed to admit I would ask my friends for the answers and then say “Oh yeah, that’s what I’ve got as well” when in reality I didn’t know.

Recently I have tried to up my reading game. I decided that I want to read more of the “classic” stories out there, like To Kill A Mocking Bird, Animal Farm and The Great Gatsby. I’m currently reading The Hobit. Tyrone said when he read it he finished it in a day. I’m still going a month after starting it.

Writing

I love to write. I wouldn’t write a blog if I didn’t enjoy writing. But, I do struggle with it.

As a child I would come up with great ideas for stories; characters, plots, locations, etc. But I just couldn’t translate my thoughts into words. I tried, and I’ve look backed at some of these failed stories in recent years, and they are cringe worthy. But they showed me that my writing has improved, even though I haven’t realised it.

Practice makes perfect as they say, and while I may be far from perfect, I do believe that writing three blog posts a week had seriously helped to improve my writing ability from what it once was.

I’m not very good at ordering and structuring my writing, which is one of the reasons I’ve got into a habit of using sub-headings in my blog posts; they help me to focus. And I’m terrible at remembering the correct words for things. So terrible that sometimes I just make words up, mumble it, and hope to god nobody noticed!

Spelling

My spelling has never been great either, and I’m sure you are all aware of this as a reader of my blog. Not only am I bad at spelling, I’m also terrible at finding mistakes when proof reading my work. In my final year of university I used to text to speech software on my computer as that was the only way I could effectively check my work for mistakes.

I remember having to do a spelling test as a part of our end of primary school tests and I scored 3 out of 20, and that has always stuck with me. I use to have to practice so hard when we were given words to learn to spell at school and nothing filled me more than the dreaded Friday Spelling Test.

Nowadays I don’t tend to write anything by hand so I can rely solely on spell checker to get me through life. Thank goodness.

And so…

So, here’s the thing. I’m learning to acknowledge and accept the difficulties I have with English, and talking (and writing!) about it helps.

Being bad at reading, writing and spelling has never, ever held me back. I have 11 GCSEs, 3 A Levels and a first class honours degree after all, and I’m glad that I have been able to find ways to deal with my rubbish language skills.

I’m sorry if my poor spelling and grammar, or my poor ordering of words and sentences offends you and makes you want to steer clear of my blog. I’m trying my best and learning a lot along the way.

Have you ever struggled with reading, writing or spelling?

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  1. Joy

    I think it’s awesome that you have the courage to speak up about your struggles. To be honest, I love how organized your thoughts are in your post. You’re always so precise.

    I struggle with the same issues when writing my post. I can read something a million and one times and never catch my mistakes. I’m definitely insecure about my vocabulary too.

    I love how relatable this post is and how comforting it is to know sometimes that you’re not alone when it comes some things.

    • Holly

      Thank you. πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you liked this post.

      It’s such a surprise to hear you say that you think my posts are organised. I always think they’re a mess!

  2. I understand it completely, because I have a learning disability and I also take meds that make it hard for me to communicate. I think even before then, I suck at grammar and English is general, but it wasn’t until I started practicing that I got somewhat better. I get stuck sometimes and need help, but, I understand how it feels. <3 I too, know first hand the struggle of a primary language such as English. It really is difficult at times, even for native speakers.

    • Holly

      I’ve heard that English is one of the hardest languages to learn for non-English speakers, and I can see why. Grammar is so complicated!

  3. Susanne

    I rarely see any language mistakes on your blog. Yes, yes, English isn’t my native language, but I’ve always been good at learning languages and I read many blogs where there are frequent obvious grammar mistakes. I’ve seen you make grammar errors maybe one or two times (only confusing its with it’s as far as I remember) in the 2 or so years that I’ve been reading your blog, so I’d say you’ve done quite a good job with writing.

    I don’t say that my English is great, but I do notice grammar mistakes unless it’s about more advanced grammar. And most grammar mistakes people do have to do with apostrophes, they’re/there/their and the likes, and I’m always so fascinated to see that native English speakers haven’t learned those things.

    My husband also has a hard time with this, especially reading. He is also very slow at reading and prefer audio books.

    • Holly

      That’s good to hear! Yes, I’m completely guilty of using the wrong “its” and even worse, the wrong “their”, but that’s usually because I’m rubbish at proof reading. I hate it when make mistakes like these in tweets because people on Twitter are less forgiving.

  4. Interesting subject. Don’t worry, everybody has issues with one thing or another.
    I love reading. For the last 4 years I only read in English and 2-3 years before that I read both Romanian and English books. I have no issues with reading, but I have issues with grammar (I don’t feel the need to add a predicate, like in my first sentence, for example). I have a great memory and I know the right form because I’ve read it in a book or I heard it in movies or at telly. English is my second language, but I can also understand and speak (with a little bit of practice): French (learned in school), Italian and Spanish. After 4 months of German a few years ago, I remember a few words, but nothing too fancy.
    The strange part is that for me it’s easier to write in English than Romanian. I used to try to write something in Romanian but it always looked odd and I didn’t like it. My blog helped a lot, it’s true, and I think my work helped because I only write in English. Even my shopping lists are in English because it would be pointless to translate everything when some of the ingredients are British and I didn’t use them before moving here.

    • Holly

      I think your English is great! I really admire people who speak English as a second language because it must be so difficult to learn.

  5. Reading and writing were my forte when I was younger. I fell in love with reading at a young age and had quite the vocabulary. Now that I read and write less, (due to lack of time and my new degree stream,) I’ve noticed that I’ve lost my touch. At the very least, I’m still pretty strong when it comes to spelling and I am thankful that I don’t have to rely on a spell checker as much.

    As you said, practice makes perfect! Your blogging style and structure are both easy to follow and I would have never guessed that English wasn’t a strong suit of yours.

    • Holly

      Throughout my degree and college years I definitely read a lot less than previously. I always felt guilty as I felt I should have been reading a text book instead.

      That’s so good to hear! Thanks!

  6. Jamie

    Believe it or not, we are all weak in something. Myself? Math. Math is by far the worst subject for me. I have over the years, gotten a bit better, but when it comes time to take the test I get math test anxiety. I honestly believe that by my father having to do the work for me as he was impatient to help me learn thoroughly with the math homework from grade school, I think that hurt me more than it helped me. Ya know?

    I was always told my grammar is good, but had problems with run-ons and that was it. I honestly don’t remember if my grade school, junior high, and high school ever taught anything about grammar. Just sentence skills and the such. I actually placed really low on the exam for English for college and had to take English 61. It took me a whole year to get into an English class because of so many students! I’m finally in English 92, and I’m very glad I took English 61. I have a choice that I can stop at English 101 or continue onward to English 103 and transfer if I wanted too. However, with my major and from what I’ve learned, there aren’t any Universities that can further my knowledge in the web development field. I’m done once I receive my associates degree. Unless, I go into Computer Information Systems.

    So, see? You’re not the only one that is bad at something. I’m bad at math, you’re bad at English. I believe you told me this before. I’m glad you were able to freely admit it without having fear that someone would judge. I don’t think we should judge others for something that isn’t our fault. Ya know? Thank you for being brave enough to post about your struggles with English,Reading,and writing.

    • Holly

      Aww thank you so much! Maths was a subject I seemed to be naturally good at but didn’t want to study it anymore after school so I dropped it. I almost studied English at college but I’m so glad I didn’t because I would have found it so difficult with my issues.

  7. Elena

    I’ve also struggled with a lot of these things. Spelling has always been the worst for me, but I also struggle to read properly. In Norway we have a lot of ‘double consonants’ that I never get right, even if I’ve checked the word a billion times. Like overtime I take notes I have to check how to write the word for chapter, kapittel, in Norwegian. No matter how many times I’ve checked it I still mess it up by missing a t or adding p’s. We also have a letter Γ¦ that I always mess up with e.

    The most annoying part is that I never see my own mistakes either. (Neither do I notice other peoples mistakes πŸ˜› ) I always try to laugh it off, and try not to take it personal when someone corrects me. I have gotten better at this now, and even though I check most of what I write I still get things wrong. If I am writing something important/ official I always have my friends double check it.

    I have noticed this in every language I ever had in school though. I kept making the same mistakes like getting words wrong or skipping words while reading out loud. In Norwegian, English, French and Spanish.

    • Holly

      It’s good to hear that someone from Norway also struggles with the double consonants! I’ve been working on a lot of Norwegian websites lately and our whole system has had to be rebuilt to cope with double consonants and extra letters that we don’t have in English. But it’s really interesting and I think I might be slowly picking up the language, haha!

  8. Cat

    While reading your blog, I never thought you were bad at writing and spelling! I can relate to your post because I’ve struggled with writing and spelling most of my life. I was never good at writing papers, and I often look up how to spell words. My vocabulary is terrible as well. I would get good grades in my English classes, but like you, I don’t think it reflects my actual English skills.

    Oddly enough, even though my writing and vocabulary is bad, I was always good at reading. I’m able to finish books quickly, and at a young age, I read at a higher level than my grade. However, because many words I learn are through reading, I often don’t know the proper pronunciation, and I say things incorrectly. Speaking is still something I struggle with and with any presentations I do, I have to practice a lot beforehand.

    No one is perfect though, and we all have weaknesses in some areas πŸ™‚ It’s good to acknowledge and accept them because that’s part of how you improve!

    • Holly

      That’s so great to hear!

      I’m terrible at presentations and I hated doing them at school, but it’s something I would like to get better at.

      I think that part of my struggle with reading is also linked to the fact I don’t have a very good imagination. I found it really difficult to read the Hobbit and visualise the creatures and locations because they aren’t real. I’m much better with realistic stories.

  9. I think that despite your struggle you have tried really hard. I remember on your old website I would see a lot of spelling errors but I rarely, if ever, notice them now. I think writing blog posts has helped you improve!

    Not everyone is interested in reading, and I’ve known people who have never got into reading after hating it, or people who have found a certain type of genre that they like reading. I don’t think anyone should force themselves to read what they don’t like! That’s the important thing. I read something about people trying to finish a book because they wanted to have the sense of accomplishment from finishing it, but they totally hated the book. Not cool haha.

    • Holly

      I feel like I need to write an update to this post because in the end I gave up on The Hobit. I realised I was finding it hard to read because it didn’t interest me at all. I’m not good with fantasy stories; I much prefer reading something that I can visualise easily. At first I felt bad because I got about three quarters of the way through it and I felt like I should have finished it just for the sake of it. But what’s the point in wasting my time on something I don’t enjoy!