Wordplay is a blog project featuring posts from students enrolled in ENG 320 Grammar and Linguistics (Fall 2019)
by Peyton Flack
As a person who has been speaking the English language for 20 some years and as a future teacher, I can confidently say that it sucks! It is confusing, constantly changing, and full of rules. Some of these rules make learning English difficult, especially as a second language. Let’s look at a few tricky words and rules and see if there is a way to help better understand them.
First, let’s talk about homographs. Homographs are words that are spelled the same, but have a different meaning. There are 150 plus homographs in the English Language. “Read-read,” “object-object,” and “wind-wind” are just a few examples. If you have been speaking English for awhile, you most likely know these sound different and have different meanings, but if you are just learning this language this would confuse the heck out of you! The article “Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs for ESL Students” states that the best way to recognize and understand these it to know their meaning and continue to practice using them correctly. They always say practice makes perfect!
Another important rule that the English language doesn’t seem to follow very often is “i before e except after c.” This rule seems fairly simple to follow after reading it, but once again the English language proves to us that it doesn’t follow its own rules and that it is confusing. There are 923 words that break this rule and only 44 that actually follow it. The first question most people would ask is “Why on earth would you create this rule, if more words break it than follow it?” Linguists answered back by adding more detail to this rule. The “new” rule is “I before E except after C when the sound is ‘ee’.” For example, “achieve” and “receipt” follow this rule. Words like “science” don’t follow this rule because it makes a different sound. Hopefully this helps make the rule easier to follow.
Last, but certainly not least in the list of confusing English language rules are words that look like they should rhyme, but don’t, versus words that rhyme but don’t look the same. There are several of these words like “good” and “food” that have the same letters but different vowel sounds. Then there are words like “practice” and “cactus” that do rhyme, but have different letters. These words have the same sound. Learning these words can be especially difficult for students. Seattle Learning Academy states that, because of these “trickster” words, it is best to learn the correct spelling and the correct pronunciation when learning similar words. You have to learn how to identify sounds before you can trust your ear on this one!
The future teacher in me is paying close attention to these suggestions and clarifications. The overwhelming amount of rules, tricky words, weird spellings and pronunciations make learning English difficult for all ages. Hopefully understanding these three topics will make learning English suck a little less.
Bernal, Y., Hans, Ocón, C., Vanessa, Machado, C., B, D., … Aegon. (2017, January 1). 67 Hilarious Reasons Why The English Language Is The Worst. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from https://www.boredpanda.com/funny-english-language-jokes/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic.
Kuehn, P. R. (2019, January 29). Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs for ESL Students. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from https://owlcation.com/humanities/Homonyms-Homophones-and-Homographs-for-ESL-Students.
Non-rhyming words in English – Pronouncing: American English Pronunciation. (2009, December 4). Retrieved October 13, 2019, from https://pronuncian.com/non-rhyming-words-video.
Spisak, K. (2018, November 13). Writing Tip 68: The “i” before “e” except after “c” Challenge. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from https://kris-spisak.com/writing-tip-i-before-e/
Peyton Flack is a junior at CSC studying Elementary Education. She plans on student teaching in Colorado and graduating in December 2020. She hopes to teach Kindergarten or First Grade in a rural school district.