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English Language Educational Games; How On Earth Do You Pronounce This?

Uncategorized / February 23, 2010

English is one of the more complex languages to learn, and a significant reason given by some educationalists as why we struggle in primary and secondary school performance. Are they right?

I recall the word developed by William Ollier (born 1824), sometimes attributed to George Bernard Shaw that revealed the games that can be played with the perverse nature of English pronunciation. The word Mr Ollier compiled is ghoti and is pronounced “fish.” Here’s his reasoning:

  • The sound for the letter F are taken from the word cough
  • The I is stolen from women
  • The sound for the letters SH comes from the ti in the word station.

It doesn’t stop there. One of the best quips I recall is the sentence that demonstrates the English games that can be played with the letters “ough”

A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough: after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed. Nine different ways to pronounce “ough” in one sentence. Ah what delights that can be played in English language educational games. Perhaps this is the true value of English.


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