English Pronunciation and Other Tortures

When learning a language, vocabulary is very important…

… but you will agree with me that correct pronunciation can be a matter of life and death.


English is a difficult language to learn because it is horribly irregular in its spelling and pronunciation. Read this poem attentively to check the inconsistency of the English pronunciation:

Some more poetic demonstrations of the fact have come my way. Enjoy! English is tough stuff  (you can listen to it by clicking here)** Only the English could have invented this language ** English is a crazy language

WARNING: Once you’ve learned to correctly pronounce every word in any of the above-mentioned poems, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.

If you find it tough going, do not despair, you are not alone. There is a system of symbols for writing the sounds of English. that will help you along. Find below a guide to these symbols and also videos to show how to pronounce each of the sounds.

Watch this funny video made by our friend Mr Duncan and practice repeating the sounds after him.

Bbc offers you a wide range of videos to practice individual sounds especially designed to help you improve your pronunciation.

Go to these interactive quizzes (1-5) to test your command on English phonetic symbols.

Not sure how to pronounce a single word? Go to this free online talking dictionary and check the word on howjsay.com

Acapela is a fabulous resource to help you with pronunciation . Choose your voice, type the text and you will get a perfectly enunciated version. Repeat and learn. Great help for preparing your speeches !

English also plays dirty tricks on spelling. Look at the following poem and try to find the mistakes, as they are all real words, the computer spell checker would not spot them. Why don’t you try and fix it in a comment?

Eye have a spelling chequer,
It came with my Pea Sea.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss Steaks I can knot sea.

Eye strike the quays and type a whirred
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am write oar wrong
It tells me straight a weigh.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your shore real glad two no.
Its vary polished in its weigh.
My chequer tolled me sew.

A chequer is a bless thing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right all stiles of righting,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The chequer pours o’er every word
Two cheque sum spelling rule.

But it’s not all bad news, aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Can you read it? Why don’t you write the letters in the right order in a comment?

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5 Responses to English Pronunciation and Other Tortures

  1. Belén says:

    According to research at Cambrigde University, it doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without a problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself, but the word as a whole.

    I think this is easier than /prə’nʌnsi’eɪʃən/. ha ha ha! (is English laughter like that?)


  2. J. A. Blasco says:

    Can you still read this?

    Bt t’s nt ll bd nws, ccrdng t rsrch t Cmbrdg nvrst, t dsn’t mttr in wht rdr th lttrs n wrd r, th nl mprtnt thng s tht th frst nd lst lttr b t th rght plc. Th rst cn b ttl mss nd y cn stll rd t wtht prblm. Ths s bcs th hmn mnd ds nt rd vry lttr by tslf, bt th wrd s whl.


  3. J. A. Blasco says:

    Let’s move on, try to pronounce this!

    / bət ɪts ˈnɑːt ˈɒl ˌbæd ˈnju:z | əˈkɔːrdɪŋ tə riˈsɜːrtʃ ət ˈkeɪmbrɪdʒ ˌjuːnɪˈvɜːrsəti | ˈɪt ˈdəzənt ˈmætər ɪn ˈwət ˈɔːrdər ðə ˈletərz ɪn ə ˈwɜːrd ɑːr | ði ˈoʊnli ˌɪmˈpɔːrtənt ˈθɪŋ z ðət ðə ˈfɜːrst ənd ˈlæst ˈletər ˈbiː ət ðə ˈraɪt ˈpleɪs | ðə ˈrest kən ˈbiː ə ˈtoʊtl̩ ˈmes ənd ju kən ˈstɪl ˈred ˈɪt ˌwɪˈθaʊt ə ˈprɑːbləm | ˈðɪs ɪz bɪˈkɒz ðə ˈhjuːmən ˈmaɪnd dəz ˈnɑːt ˈred ˈevəri ˈletər ˈbaɪ ətˈself | bət ðə ˈwɜːrd əz ə hoʊl /

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