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READ, WRITE, SPEAK: English: predictable or just plain weird?


The English language can be tricky to master with so many words spelt the same yet sounds different. - 123RF
The English language can be tricky to master with so many words spelt the same yet sounds different. - 123RF

Have you ever come across a social media post about the weird quirks of the English language? I recently saw a list on Pinterest titled 10 Reasons Why English is Weird. An example they provided was “the bandage was wound around the wound.” I used to think that English was strange and had no rhyme or reason to it, until I learned that approximately 80 per cent of the English language is actually predictable.

The English language has undergone many changes since it first appeared, pulling words from various other languages and making up new words along the way. This combination of sources has resulted in the variety of spellings and pronunciations we find in English today.

Let’s look at the words “wound” and “wound” from the sentence I mentioned earlier. The vowel team “ou” makes two different sounds in English: /ow/ as in sound and /oo/ as in soup. The former is the more common pronunciation and is of Anglo-Saxon origin, whereas “ou”, as in soup is rare, and of French origin. So, although it may be strange and frustrating that there are two ways of pronouncing “ou”, they do follow a pattern. When there is more than one choice of spelling or pronunciation, we can use context and knowledge of what is the most common to make a choice.

Let’s look at a few other patterns that will help with spelling and reading:

When you hear the sound /k/ at the end of a one-syllable word and it is preceded by a short vowel, it will usually be spelled “ck”. Example: truck.

When you hear the sound /ik/ at the end of a multisyllabic word, it will usually be spelled “ic”. Example: plastic.

English words do not end in the letter “v”. If the final sound in a word is /v/ the word will end in “e”. Example: adaptive.

Do the young readers in your family struggle with certain words and pronunciation? Interested in other topics about helping your kids with reading and writing? Email Dijana MacMillan at tamaracktutoring@gmail.com.

Dijana MacMillan lives in Blockhouse with her husband and their big, fluffy cat. She runs Tamarack Tutoring, which provides tutoring in reading, writing and spelling skills.

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