English pronunciation and how it makes your head explode!

If you’ve ever tried to get your head around English pronunciation rules, you know that it can be terribly frustrating! First of all, there are some very ‘’challenging’’ (some would say impossible!) sounds (the th sound, for example). Secondly, no other language in the world has more words spelled the same way yet pronounced differently, which can make its pronunciation seem completely random – and sometimes it is!

Don’t believe me? Let me prove it to you.

  • How about the letter c in race, rack or rich?
  • Or how about silent letters, like the b in debt or the second t in whistle?
  • When we put certain letters together, it gets even more tricky – take these combinations for example.

heard – beard

road – broad

five – give

paid – said

break – speak

The list goes on and on. And if you’re still not convinced, I dare you to tell me how the cluster ough is pronounced…? The answer is: in SEVEN different ways!!

though           /ðəu/

tough              /taf/

thought           /θɑːt/

through           /θruː/

plough             /plaʊ/

thorough         /ˈθʌr.ə/

hiccough         /ˈhɪk.ʌp/

For anyone trying to get their head around English pronunciation, this is sheer torture! Is there a method to the madness…? If there is, I haven’t found it yet! Apart from advising you to read but also listen to authentic English as much as you can (a combination of the two works best in my opinion), the best I can do for you is make you aware of the fact that two words may look the same, but are not pronounced the same!

Therefore, when learning new vocab, always check both the spelling and pronunciation in your dictionary. In the meantime, keep smiling and try to enjoy the wonderfully confusing mess that is English pronunciation!