If you are a child learning how to write and spell, or an adult speaker you may run into situations where you feel like screaming “WHYYYYYYY?” because we know spellings can be so confusing at times.
Do you feel no matter how hard you try there is always a mistake while spelling certain words?
Do you often misunderstand the meaning of some English words because of the similar pronunciation for two different words?
If you nodded a Yes, Read along.
In this article, we are going to see how the spelling of English words becomes so confusing?
English is considered an international language. There are approximately 375 million people across the globe who speak English as their first language. Are you one of them? English is the third most spoken language after Chinese and Spanish. Surprised? The businesses in the United States of America and the United Kingdom are only conducted in English. Hence, the business owners in Japan, India, and many other countries are hiring translators to run import and export businesses in the USA and UK. With time, Middle East countries and African countries have made English the mandatory language in schools and colleges.
The English language which we are reading. Writing or speaking today is not easy to learn. The main reason is the complications in the spelling of the words and their pronunciation with an exception of the rules of spelling. Some spellings in the English language are difficult to learn and also very easily misunderstood.
Let us see, how did the English language originate?
The origin of the English Language
The English language originated from the 4th century onwards in the Latin alphabet throughout Europe to spread Christianity among the people. The first few hundred years of English using the Latin alphabet, the spellings were pretty consistent and phonetics.
Around the 6th century, the monks and missionaries started to translate Latin religious texts into local languages so that it could be read by the general population. The spelling was kept as close to it’s pronunciation, if possible. But as some of the Latin sounds were not available in other languages, the word uses accent mark or put two letters together, For example, we had a strange exotic English ‘th’ sound which was originally taken from the German thorn symbol which was later settled on to the two-letter combination ‘th’ which we are still using in the English today.
In 1066, Normans conquered Britain after which the French language replaced the English language among higher classes of the country. Although, English remained the language for the common people. After that, about 10,000 French words were included in the English language. These words continue to have their French spellings and the pronunciation rules in French are different from English that is when the language starts to get confusing.
In 1473, William Caxon set up a printing business and printed the very first English book, The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. Amazing, isn’t it? After that, he hired many printers from the low countries who were not used to the English language. As a result, they made a lot of spelling mistakes and also used Dutch spellings. They were paid more if they were printing more so they started making simple spellings confusing by adding random letters to words.
During this time, the first Bible also began to be printed in English. The Christians still conducted their activities in Latin and to spread the influence of Christianity overseas, they started printing bibles in English. This added diversity in spellings as there were no systems in place for people to correct themselves with the spellings. So, they usually accepted what they read and they also replicated it.
A step towards Standardization
People started to get confused with the spellings and were pretty much fed up with irregularities in the rules of spellings in English, during the 15th and 16th centuries. Some people researched the correct spelling at that time which made them publish the first English dictionary. Again, there was no centralization among people, therefore, some of them used different methodologies to simplify written English by implementing their own spelling rules while some of them wanted to retain the official spelling from where it originated. As a result, the attempts for standardization made things complicated.
The Vowel shift
It was the time of the 17th century, when the English language pronunciation was giving birth to modern English: The Vowel Shift. The long vowels of Middle English happened to be changing their pronunciation which is the main reason for the cause of this shift. Let’s say, the pronunciation in Middle English for the words ‘meat’ and ‘meet’ were pronounced differently but their sounds merged during the shift. These changes kept on getting complicated and varied and also, it occurred over a period of 400 years that the written English language simply couldn’t keep up.
So the next time when you feel that you are not able to remember the spelling of the word, you are not alone. There have been multiple reasons for confusion between the spelling and the phonetics of the word. And how the English words get complicated over time. Many words in the English language are derived from other languages which have made the English language the most confusing language in modern times. If you are not confident in English writing, you can take the help of the experts who teach us how to learn English spelling.
Which words seem confusing to you that are difficult to remember? Let me know in the comments below.