Unit 35 - Why is English spelling so hard?

This unit explores how English spelling has developed over the years and covers these areas:

  • The influence of other languages
  • Recent additions to the English language
  • Spelling proper nouns
  • What about the future of English spelling?
Why is English spelling so hard? Have you ever wondered WHY English spelling is so difficult? Many other languages manage to spell words as they sound, using the same letters for each sound. Only English is so frustrating - for a good example, look at this word:

According to English spelling, it could say fish :

gh as in rough   /f/
o as in women   /i/
ti as in station   /sh/

(Attributed to George Bernard Shaw)

Have a go at working out what these could spell. They are all animals:

1.  ularghainth bury   leg   calendar   tough   plait   not   Thames
2.  edeigoi jumped   height   gum   tortoise
3.  tiro fiction   red   prove
4.  chamghanseo chat   manage   men   hiccough   act   nut   his   people

Click here for the answers.

Why is English spelling so hard? No wonder English spelling drives people crazy - don't blame yourself if you find it hard.

So who can you blame?

next part of the spelling course Go to next page: A brief history of English spelling
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Unit 35: Why is English spelling so hard?

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