Learning to Read Means Learning English is Dumb

As your youngster learns how to talk, you’ll notice that there are several little things about English that don’t really make sense. The irregular verbs come to mind. Many children end up saying "go-ed" instead of went and my own frequently says will’nt in place of won’t. But, nothing prepares you for just how stupid the English language is until your child starts reading and writing.

We all know about silent letters, in particular the silent K at the front of some words, but it goes way beyond that. Some silent letters have purposes after all; for example, the silent E at the end of many words makes the preceding vowel take the long sound, which makes perfect sense. However, English is filled with nonsensical letters, words and sounds.

For starters, what exactly, is the purpose of the letter C?

The sounds it makes are already covered by other letters, namely S and K.

Cake is two K sounds. Why is one of them a C and the other a K?

Why does G need to make a j sound if there is already a letter J?

Garage has the letter G make both the g-uh sound and the j-uh sound in the SAME WORD!

Face and case make exactly the same sound except for one of them has a C for that S sound in the middle and the other has a C. How does that make any sense whatsoever? And, just for fun, that K sound in case is brought to you by a C instead of a K.

Fruit and Food have very similar "oo" sounds, and yet one is UI and one is OO. That wouldn’t be so bad except that OO sometimes makes the "oo" sound like in You (which uses OU instead of anything that makes sense. Oh, and by the way, OU usually makes an "ow" sound instead, so why in the world does it take the "oo" sound here?) Of course, OO also takes the "uyh" sound like in book and hook.

Of course, your child will eventually learn all of the inane exceptions, double sounds, nonsense lettering and more that compose the English language. However, in the meantime, good parenting requires you to remind your child that this is NOT a lack of understanding on their part, nor are they not trying hard enough. These quirks can sap the confidence of young readers, especially if they start to feel like they are doing well and the run into a pile of these bizarre spellings in a row.

Remind your child that the words they are reading don’t follow any patterns. Be sure to use their language. Tell them, "Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense, but that word is actually TOWN even though it is just the word OWN with a T on the front."

By reminding your young reader that what they are tripping up on is a glitch or quirk in the language and not something that they should be able to figure out, you save their confidence and continue to encourage their reading development. Above all, never correct harshly, especially when the error is in the language, not your child’s understanding of the sounds of letters and letter combinations.

Finally, remember that you’ll go through this again soon when your child graduates from reading letters and sounding out words and moves on to putting words together into sentences. There are dozens of grammar rules that make just as little sense as the letter C does.

Dumb English Words and Sounds

Here are just some of the idiotic words and sounds that make learning reading and sounding out words difficult for beginning readers.

  • there, their, they’re and your, you’re
  • town, gown, frown, down, towel BUT round, ground, loud (all "ow" sound)
  • ow = "ow" BUT own = "oh-n" BUT town = "t-ow-n" (ow or oh, not both)
  • book, look, hook BUT food, school, tool

There are tons more. As I remember them, or my poor kiddo runs across more, I’ll try and update this list.

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2 Responses to Learning to Read Means Learning English is Dumb

  1. michael ryan says:

    I’ve always regarded the intricacies of the English language as an intentional challenge. In the modern era when we aren’t allowed to judge people based on their height or ethnicity, what’s more fair game for peer evaluation than their awareness of the arbitrary nuances of the language?

  2. Bret says:

    Shouldn’t the following rhyme? Never-mind the nonsensical “b.”
    Comb
    Tomb
    Bomb

    Thanks for the fun commentary! I enjoyed it and am dealing with the same issues as my daughters are learning to read.

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