Friday, November 6, 2020

The Chaos

Most Indian languages are spoken the exact way they are written. For example, in Tamil, there is no confusion whatsoever. A word is pronounced exactly the way someone spells it in writing, with no exceptions. When I learnt Spanish for a brief time in college, the first thing the Spanish teacher taught us was that the words are to be pronounced exactly how they are written with no exceptions whatsoever. And, that is one of the main reasons why English can be really tough to learn. 

Even for some of us who have studied English all through our school, pronouncing those words correctly and especially new words can be extremely tricky. Knowing English is one thing, but being confidant in our pronunciation in this pretty inconsistent language (usually with scarce logic) is an entirely different matter.  

A funny poem on the inconsistency of the English pronunciation is captured beautifully in the poem The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité.  Here's an excerpt:

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable, but Parliament.
Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, though, sough, tough??
Hiccough has the sound of sup...
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

The author of The Chaos, Dr. Gerard Nolst Trenité, was a Dutch writer and traveller. To any foreign learner of this language, and even for people deemed to be well versed with it, English can be one of the most confusing languages. At a personal level, though I am confident in writing English and I can speak fluently, there are words you are not at all sure about when it comes to saying them out loud!

You can read the poem in full here. Do you have a funny moments with English? Share in the comments below!

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