Those of us who are not native speakers of English know well enough how English pronunciation can be unspeakably tricky. George Bernard Shaw’s spelling for ‘fish’ (ghoti = enough + women + nation: /ˈfɪʃ/) has become the quintessential example of such irregularity. Nevertheless, we non-native ESL teachers have bravely conquered the bugaboo and mastered even the finer nuances of the system… or have we? Well, first read the poem below and then watch the video to gauge your performance.
PS.: I’ve known this poem for years but still stumble here and there every time I try to read it quickly.
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble but not you
On hiccough, thorough, slough and through.
Well done! And now you wish perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead, it’s said like bed, not bead–
for goodness’ sake don’t call it ‘deed‘!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(they rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth, or brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s doze and rose and lose–
Just look them up- and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart–
Come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I’d learned to speak it when I was five!
And yet to write it, the more I sigh,
I’ll not learn how ’til the day I die.