Mind Your Language

English Key On Keyboard Meaning British Language

The English language is probably the world’s predominant language, used now in almost every country along with any native language, and resorted to whenever there is need to communicate between persons of different first language, or great public international interest. If we are brought up with English

as our mother tongue we cope reasonably well with its inconsistencies of pronunciations and spellings, but for those learning it as a foreign language it must be very difficult at times to sort out. Take for example, the possibilities of meaning and pronunciation of the word “lead”.

Consider the spelling of words with “ie” or “ei” in them. (The Germans make it easy, always pronouncing the couplet according to the second letter, so if you know the spelling of the word you know the pronunciation and vice-versa). But not the English. We have a confounding variety in spelling and pronunciation. We have the teacher’s rhyme: “i before e except after c”.
But this doesn’t work all the time, it lets us down with height, weight, freight, sleight, reign, rein etc., so we had better add “and just before n or g”. And then there is the pronunciation. See how many different vowel sounds you can find with English words with “ie” and “ei” in them.

Another conundrum for the foreigner is “ough”. It has a different sound in thought, though, through, bough, and rough. We have to admire those who master our language to fluency when it is not their native tongue!

David Clarke.

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