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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh 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-
And only Scotsmen 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 in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s does 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, come I have hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive-
I had mastered it when I was five.

Herbert Farjeon

10 Responses to “Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners”

  1. What a helpful poem. Thank you! Such a delight to read it aloud.
    I just wonder how the author’s name is pronounced.

    jb says: Silent J, perhaps?

  2. […] times about whether learning english is more difficult or if spanish is. I believe english is, and this is the poem I was thinking of when I said so! Thanks to John Baker’s blog for publishing […]

  3. Kim says:

    This is headed straight to my Linguistic professor’s attention. I have a feeling he’ll get a kick out of it.

    jb says: Hi Kim. I hope he does.

  4. Patrizia Serafini says:

    it’s an interesting tool to use , but I’m afraid I need a native speaker reading it for me!!
    Is there any recording available?

    jb says: Dunno, Patrizia. You could try Google.

  5. sophia says:

    its very beautiful and very meaning ful

  6. Zena Yannuzzi says:

    This is a little eye opening for so called native English speakers. Our pronunciation of these words is purely thoughtless. “And only Scotsmen call it deed!” Good one; as ‘high’ is ‘hee’.

  7. Peter says:

    This Poem would serve as a good material for those who want to perfect their pronunciation. It also helps for one to read it aloud so they could hear if they said the word out right.

  8. Ryan says:

    This is great. I was actually just going over words like this with a family member who is homeschooling her daughters. They are going through this kind of thing right now. Fascinating stuff and a little funny. Crazy how complicated the English language is.

  9. Tom says:

    This is awesome! You should post a YouTube video so we can listen to the correct pronunciation.

  10. Michel Berry says:

    My version of this is a little longer! It continues with:

    I will teach you in my verse
    Words like corps, corksm horse and worse.
    For this phonetic labyrinth
    Gives monkey, donkey, ninth and plinth;
    Wounded, rounded, grieve and sieve;
    Friend and fiend: alive and live.
    Query does not rhyme with very,
    Nor does fury sound like bury.
    Dies and diet, lord and word,
    Earth and hearth and clerk and herd;
    Evil, devil, tomb, bomb, comb;
    Doll, roll; dull, bull; some and home.
    Finally – for I’ve said enough –
    Through, though, thorough, plough, cough, tough!
    While hiccough has the sound of cup…
    My advice is: Give it up!