The title is a little misleading, English isn’t as complicated as some languages and it is either easier or more difficult depending on a number of factors. For example, your native language and the age you start learning are just 2 factors.
For most people, pronunciation is one of the most difficult aspects to learning English. English isn’t a tonal language, so it isn’t difficult in that respect and actually (if taught correctly) learners of English often don’t have a problem copying the pronunciation of English words from other speakers. So what do I mean?
Well, it comes down to reading English and pronouncing words that you’ve never seen before. Native speakers seem to have an ability to pronounce words correctly, regardless of whether they’ve actually read them out loud before, but second language learners often find this problematic. One of the reasons, in my opinion, is that the Latin alphabet that the English language uses because it isn’t a phonetic alphabet, like in some languages. Let me give you some examples of what I mean!
The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does certain things when does are present.
We have a number of things in these examples that make it very difficult for a learner of English as a second language to pronounce the words correctly. We have words that are the same spelling but have different pronunciations, different meanings and different forms. Let’s take the word ‘dove’ as an example.
The definition of the noun dove in this sentence is “A stocky seed- or fruit-eating bird of the pigeon family, with a small head, short legs, and a cooing voice.” It’s pronounced with a short ‘o’ vowel sound.
The verb ‘dove’ in this sentence is the past form of the verb ‘dive’. It is pronounced with a long vowel sound.
English is littered with these kinds of words that are the same spellings, but different pronunciation, different meanings, different forms and different uses.
But that’s not all, we also have words that are spelled very similarly and one might think they are pronounced very similarly, but unfortunately, they would be wrong! Take a look at this poem.
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 -
For goodness sake don’t call it ‘deed’!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
As you can see, pronunciation in English isn’t always what it seems to be! If you have any more examples, I’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment below and share them with us!