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7 Reasons That English Pronunciation is Difficult.

Posted on February 26, 2010 in Top Posts | 7 comments

So, you want to learn English as a second language?  Good idea.  We’re here to help, so welcome to the 7 Reasons Language School.  We’ll start things off simply, with a bit of pronunciation.

Lesson One: Pronouncing words that end with “ough”.

1.  Through (throo). Okay, this is the first word you’ve seen that ends o-u-g-h.  Now you know that “ough” can be pronounced “oo”.  Simple.

2.  Rough (ruff). You may imagine, based on the prior example that “rough” is pronounced “roo”.  It isn’t, it’s pronounced “ruff”.  This means that o-u-g-h is more complicated than you initially supposed.  You’re probably thinking that “ough” must be pronounced “oo” if preceded by th, and “uff” if not preceded with th.  That’s wrong, but we like your reasoning.  Don’t worry, you’ll soon get the hang of it.

3.  Dough (doe). Nope, it’s not pronounced “duff”, or even “doo”; it’s pronounced “doe”.  That’s a third pronunciation of “ough” to remember.  We realise that there’s no apparent pattern and that this English lark may be harder than you supposed, but do carry on.  If small children can manage this, then so can you.

4.  Plough (plow). Did we mention there’s a fourth pronunciation?  I know it may seem a trifle excessive, but the English are aware that their language is sometimes illogical and impenetrable, and are tolerant of people’s attempts to learn it.  We’re not the sort of people who will spit out warm beer and roll around the floors of our country pubs guffawing if you order a ploomans lunch.  Oh no.

5.  Lough (lock). Why is this word pronounced “lock”, but spelled l-o-u-g-h?  Why isn’t it spelled l-o-c-k?  Er…good questions.  We’re not sure.  Perhaps the Scots hate you too.

6.  Cough (coff). Yes, that is a sixth way to pronounce the same thing.  You may be thinking that learning Klingon would make more sense than this.  It probably would, but then you’d have to converse about dilithium crystals and the climate of the planet Qo’noS with a man named Terry.

7.  Hiccough (hiccup). What happened to “oo”, “uff”, “o”, “ow”, “ock” and “off”?  Well, it’s now pronounced “up”.  What do you mean you give ough?  Come back!

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  1. There was a young lady of Slough
    Who developed a terrible cough
    Her throat felt so rough
    And she spent all her dough
    On medicines which made her hiccough

  2. Add thorough to that list – I know you had to keep to seven . . .

  3. They SHOULD NOT teach this in English class in school haha. Wonder why i didn’t come across this before.

  4. I know it’s not at the end of the word, but the sound in ‘thought’ is also different to all 7 and Brad’s example!

  5. Why is Sean Bean not pronounced Siin Biin?

  6. How about ‘one’? It’s said as ‘won’ but looking at it you’d think onie, where does the W sound come from?

  7. “Ghoti” could be pronounced as “fish” by using the gh in “tough,”the o in “women,” and the ti in “action.”

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