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Don't trust the English spelling (/d'oʊnt tr'ʌst ðə 'ɪŋɡlɪʃ sp'elɪŋ/)

Don't trust the spelling.  Why?  Because word spelling is not always the good indication of how a word should be pronounced, at times, it can be even misleading.

Proof?  Easy.   Try these set of words - go, no, do, who, shoe, front, month.    They are all spelled with English vowel alphabet "o", but their pronunciation is totally different.    

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) spelling is the best indicator.  It spells exactly how words should be pronounced.  It has a larger set of symbols to represent vowels and diphthongs (as oppose to English vowel alphabet - a, e, i, o, u).  

As you can see from the list, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) spelling of those words shows clearly that  'go' (/ɡ'/) and  'do' (/d/) and 'month' (/m'ʌnθ/) have different vowel sounds which are the diphthong sound '', '' and 'ʌ(although their English spellings use the same English vowel 'o').     In addition, IPA spelling shows that despite different English vowel spelling for 'shoe' (/ʃ'/) and 'who' (/h'/), these words have the same vowel sound /uː/ represented by the IPA vowel alphabet '' in their IPA spellings.

Unfortunately, IPA spelling does have its own barriers.   First, a lot of people think IPA phonetic symbols are a real turn off.   What?  They said there are too many phonetic symbols, and they look rather weird.    Second, different English dictionaries use a slightly different variation of those phonetic symbols.      

That's why I am so thrilled when I discovered Google Dictionary.   It has one feature that in my opinion have never been made available before, the phonetic spelling of words that is both free and highly accessible worldwide.   I have a feeling that this alone may be able to change the entire landscape of how people learn phonetics.    Google Dictionary is the single point of reference because it is free and is easily accessible on the Internet from computers around the world.    

So, now, part of the problem surrounding phonetics is solved.   And, it is for the benefit of the next generation ESL learners.

To conclude this article I'd like to list a few words that I have pronounced wrongly for a long time simply because I have been misled by their spelling.

With all these virtues, I'd like to propose that phonetic spelling of words should be taught along side the world spelling in every level of ESL study.

Interesting read on the topic


Subpages (1): Words misled by spelling
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