English: pre­dictable or just plain weird?

South Shore Breaker - - Wheels - DIJANA MACMILLAN READ, WRITE, SPEAK tama­rack­tu­tor­[email protected]

Have you ever come across a so­cial me­dia post about the weird quirks of the English lan­guage? I re­cently saw a list on Pin­ter­est ti­tled 10 Reasons Why English is Weird. An ex­am­ple they pro­vided was “the ban­dage was wound around the wound.” I used to think that English was strange and had no rhyme or rea­son to it, un­til I learned that ap­prox­i­mately 80 per cent of the English lan­guage is ac­tu­ally pre­dictable.

The English lan­guage has un­der­gone many changes since it first ap­peared, pulling words from var­i­ous other lan­guages and mak­ing up new words along the way. This com­bi­na­tion of sources has re­sulted in the va­ri­ety of spellings and pro­nun­ci­a­tions we find in English to­day.

Let’s look at the words “wound” and “wound” from the sen­tence I men­tioned ear­lier. The vowel team “ou” makes two dif­fer­ent sounds in English: /ow/ as in sound and /oo/ as in soup. The for­mer is the more com­mon pro­nun­ci­a­tion and is of An­gloSaxon origin, whereas “ou”, as in soup is rare, and of French origin. So, although it may be strange and frus­trat­ing that there are two ways of pro­nounc­ing “ou”, they do fol­low a pat­tern. When there is more than one choice of spelling or pro­nun­ci­a­tion, we can use con­text and knowl­edge of what is the most com­mon to make a choice.

Let’s look at a few other pat­terns that will help with spelling and read­ing:

When you hear the sound /k/ at the end of a one-syl­la­ble word and it is pre­ceded by a short vowel, it will usu­ally be spelled “ck”. Ex­am­ple: truck.

When you hear the sound /ik/ at the end of a mul­ti­syl­labic word, it will usu­ally be spelled “ic”. Ex­am­ple: plas­tic.

English words do not end in the let­ter “v”. If the fi­nal sound in a word is /v/ the word will end in “e”. Ex­am­ple: adap­tive.

Do the young read­ers in your fam­ily strug­gle with cer­tain words and pro­nun­ci­a­tion? In­ter­ested in other top­ics about help­ing your kids with read­ing and writ­ing? Email Dijana Macmillan at tama­rack­tu­tor­[email protected]


The English lan­guage can be tricky to mas­ter with so many words spelt the same yet sounds dif­fer­ent.

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