I introduce today’s fun video!
This video is entirely in English (I haven’t done such a thing for some time) and is very simply just me reciting a poem. But this is no ordinary poem! It was written (Edit: by “Gerard Nolst Trenité” in 1922, with original title “The Chaos” and slightly different to what I read) to demonstrate the weird spelling convention that English follows, and is incredibly difficult to read without practising it a lot in advance!
I used to offer the best students in my classes (when I was an English teacher) €100 if they could read the entire thing without slipping up. Considering that I couldn’t even do this myself (I slip up once in the video even this time, and probably pronounce one or two words wrong), I knew that the money was safe!
This poem is generally used to prove that English is the “hardest language in the world” (I shit you not; as I always say every language makes this claim) in a very similar way to how the Shi Shi poem is used to “prove” Chinese’s impossibility (Myth Busted), so I’ve decided to hijack any searches people make for this poem, to add some humour to a normally dull and discouraging concept, and then add some encouragement of my own at the end!
As such, to make the video much more interesting than just me talking, I’ve included not only the original poem on screen, but also its corresponding pronunciation in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve added in a tonne of funny images to represent the majority of these words, to spice it up even more!
Sorry if I still slipped up on a pronunciation or two in the video! Also, I used the phonetics automatically produced by this IPA converter site, correcting it for words that it didn’t know. It seems to go along with American pronunciation, so you’ll hear my Irish accent disagree with certain sounds, but it’s close enough!
Also, keep watching through to the end, because after the poem I add in some encouraging words of my own to essentially contradict the title of the poem and its very last line!
If you enjoyed it, please do copy this link to your Facebook wall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-JDu3o7Cyw
And leave a comment below to let me know how I did. Thanks! 😀
Here’s the poem in its entirety:
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation — think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough —
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!*
*Disclaimer: My advice is actually to never give up!! 😉