When words share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings you can club them under one linguistic phenomenon called ‘homonyms’. The state of being a homonym gives rise to its noun form called ‘homonymy’. The concept of homonym does not register very easily in the minds of learners and so a separate discussion on this concept must be generated. Often the word homonym is confused with the word ‘homophone’. Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but not necessarily their spelling. Let us take some examples of homonyms. Oh yes, the words ‘left’ (the past tense of leave) and ‘left’ (opposite of right) ring a bell, don’t they? They are homonyms or if you like they are in the same linguistic state called ‘homonymy’. There are more examples. English language is not a basket with just one or two apples but many for your intellect to consume. Consider the words ‘lie’ (falsehood) and ‘lie’ (assuming a resting position). They are also homonyms aren’t they?
The reason why there is some difficulty for the mind to register homonyms is because of the inability to distinguish it from homophones and ‘homographs’ (words sharing the same spelling irrespective of their pronunciation). The distinction can be made firm by not just giving examples but also by going into the logical derivation of the words through their origin. If you only give examples then there is still a possibility of confusing the terms and using them interchangeably without intending to. Therefore take the word homonym. It comes from the Greek word ‘homonumous’ which means “having the same name”. Then you can logically come up with the word ‘homonymous’. Homonymous is in the same state as synonymous. It is just an extension of the word for the sake of conveying its noun form.
There are reading skill games by which learners can be made to identify homonyms. Online tutors help facilitate learning by using these reading games as this facility is made easily available with modern technology. Students report how difficulties arise when they confuse spellings as a result of a word having another meaning with the same pronunciation but different spelling. Tutors are trained to identify such areas of difficulty and are vigilant whenever the difficulty is expressed. The words ‘lose’ and ‘loose’ are a case in point. One way of helping them differentiate between the two is by showing some visual representations of the words. The word ‘lose’ can be shown in a picture of a marathon race at the end and the word ‘loose’ can be represented by loosely tied shoe lace for example. It is proven that once students are able to identify homonyms, their sense of discrimination sharpens leading to startling leaps in their linguistic abilities.