Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners

As these states in the United States of America become, via immigration and other factors, more “salad bowls” than  “melting pots,”  we become more and more aware of the difficulties our native tongue presents to those who come from other cultures and who may have command only of their native language:  the language of their parents and more remote ancestors.

In 1965 this poem appeared in the “London Sunday Times” and was attributed to an author who was identified only by his initials: “T.S.W.” Try reading through this poem aloud, and it will make you appreciate,  and perhaps be more considerate of,  those immigrants or refugees who appear to be murdering our language:

Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners

I take it you alread 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,


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


For goodness’ sake don’t call it


Watch out for meat and great and threat.

(They rhyme with suite and

straight and debt.)

A moth is not a moth in mother

Nor both in bother, broth in


And here is not a match for there

Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,

And then there’s dose and rose

and lose–

Just look them up–and goose

and choose,

And cork and work and card and


And font and front and word and


And do and go and thwart and


Come, come, I’ve hardly made a


A dreadful language? Man alive.

I’d mastered it when I was five.

That was fun, or was it not? (Call me friend but not a fiend.)



3 Responses to “Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners”

  1. berta Says:

    And they say English is a simple language:)

  2. Tammy Stephens Says:

    I was going to Read your blog, but realized I had alreadY Read it. Then my Pet came up, and I Pet him gently. I fell down the Bank going to the Bank. My how have the Days flown by! I have been in a Daze. At ball practice, the boy Threw the first Pitch, but after the screaming parent’s Pitch, he couldn’t make it Through. You were Right, it was fun, but why not line it to the Right?

  3. Mary Myers Says:

    Well, although I did not “ax” you to “conversate” over the subject I can at least tell you that “then” and “than” are not interchangeable and each have distinctly separate meanings.

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