The spelling of British English is pretty confusing, right? I’m sure that if you did a degree in Linguistics, studied the etymology of words and spoke Latin then you’ll know exactly why and when to use certain pronunciations but the physiological business of ‘how’ to pronounce English words might still be a mystery.
Just take the words ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re', which in a standard British English accent would all be pronounced exactly the same. And the reason you might be pronouncing them differently is because you are hoping that the spelling is an accurate guide to the pronunciation, but sadly it’s not.
Now, considering however persuasive the spelling seems to be in terms of pronunciation, maybe we could turn the spelling to our advantage?
For example, the vowel sound in ‘term’ is pronounced exactly the same as the vowel sound in ‘work’ and ‘hurt’ - crazy, but true. Now, in my experience, so long as you’re not pronouncing the ‘r’ (for more on this, see my blog post - 5 British Pronunciation Hacks: How To Bridge The Gap Between Spellings And Speech), many speakers actually pronounce the vowel sound in 'term' quite well, possible because the ‘er’ seems to suggest the right sound. So, what if we were to borrow that spelling and rewrite the other words? So ‘work’ becomes ‘werk’ and ‘hurt’ becomes ‘hert’. Now, if you really let what’s written inform the way you speak, you might hear a difference in what you said - probably closer to the target sound than before.
This is just an exercise for pronunciation - let's be clear that I don't actually want you to start spelling these words differently when you write - so whether you think about it as re-programming or de-programming the spelling, arriving at that new sound and new pronunciation is all that matters, right?And after it has happened once, you suggested a new synaptic connection in your brain, and it then becomes a possibility for the future.
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