This Video Cleverly Points Out How Inconsistent English Is Phonetically

This thought has probably occurred to you before, but isn’t it strange how English words with similar spellings don’t also have similar pronunciations? For example, “tow” and “cow” both end with “ow,” but “tow” rhymes with “blow” while “cow” rhymes with “now.” That doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it? The English language is full of inconsistencies like this, which makes English one of the hardest  to learn as a second language ( this article from Oxford Royale Academy explains other reasons why this is true, if you’re looking for further reading). Now there’s a profoundly effective illustration about how strangely English deals with pronunciation, and it’s this video in which things get pretty weird (via Neatorama). Aaron Alon uploaded the video, and in it, he begins:

“Consider the following sentence. The same letter combination, ‘ough,’ appears repeatedly throughout the sentence, but the sounds are different every time: ‘Though I coughed roughly and hiccoughed throughout the lecture, I still thought I could plough through the rest of it.’ This incredible inconsistency can make English really hard to master for non-native speakers. But what if English were phonetically consistent?”

From there, he goes through a variety of different letters and letter combinations, explaining all the different sounds they can make. As he introduces these sounds, he picks one possible sound a letter makes, and only uses that one for the rest of the video. As he breaks down more letters, his speech sounds stranger and stranger, like he’s a speech synthesis program or like he has a bizarre European accent. Pronunciation is a tedious thing to communicate in writing, so at this point, you’re better off just watching the video, especially the part when he reads Shakespeare with the new speaking rules he’s made for himself.

Have any of you dealt with learning English as a second language? If so, can you relate to this video? If you’re a native speaker, does it make you stop and think? Let us know how you feel about it down in the comments!

Featured image: Asja Boroš/Flickr

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