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Unlock the Secrets of Silent Letters: Your Guide to Easier Pronunciation - English For ESL Learners

Updated: Jan 21

Silent Letters - English ESL Learners

As an ESL International English Coach, I know the struggle of mastering pronunciation. Those sneaky silent letters often throw learners off. However, fear not! Today, we'll demystify these silent characters and equip you with simple rules to conquer them. (You might want to book mark this blog post)

Why Learn Silent Letters?

Sure, you can avoid silent letters, however, understanding the rules for silent letters makes learning and speaking English smoother. Think of this like knowing little secret shortcuts or what they now call "a life hack"! Plus, you might be able to impress your friends and family with your linguistic ninja skills.

Linguistic Ninja - English for ESL Learners

The Big Players:

  • Sneaky "A": Hides at the end of words ending in "-ically," making them sound longer (e.g., "logically, musically, and romantically").

  • Vanishing "B": Disappears after "m" (bomb, climb, comb, lamb and thumb) or before "t" (debt, doubt, and subtle).

  • Chameleon "C": Stays quiet after "s" or before "i, e, y" (scene, scissors, muscle and fascinate)." Oh, and "C" loves yachts!

  • Ghostly "D": Fades before or after "n" (sandwich, handsome, and Wednesday) or before "g" (bridge, knowledge, pledge).

  • Magic "E": Disappears at the end of words (give, hide, side, & write. "E" can also makes vowels sing! When it sits at the end, it stretches the sound before it (e.g., cap to cape, hop becomes hope, and bit takes a bite).

Beyond the Basics:

Each letter has its quirks, but here are some bonus tips:

  • "F": is a party animal; always spoken.

  • "G": Goes quiet before "n" (champaign, design, foreign) or after a vowel before "h" (high, and light). and the combination of "gh" after a vowel sound (bright, and daughter)

  • "H": Whispers only after "w" (what, when and whistle) or at the start of some words (honest, and hour). H is still whispering after three more letters C, G & R. "Ch becomes Sh" such as chef. and "Ch can also do K" in chaos. The "h" is one of the most silent letters because "You can't hear the rhythm or rhyme in the choir, when there's a ghostly echo of silent h's.

  • "I": Only chills in "business."

  • "J" I'm sure you'll be "off your tree" to know that's there's only one silent "j" and that would be in the green leafy substance know for getting people high called marijuana. However, we may have found another 'green' plant that doesn't like the letter "j" either... How about a jalapeño? Yeah it's origins are Spanish, however, the English dictionary has let this one slide into our silent "j" section as well. What is it with green plants not liking their "j's" anyway?

  • "K": Takes a nap before "n" (knee, knife, knock, knot, know, and knowledge).

  • "L": Sometimes skips its turn after vowels (talk, yolk). "L" gives the impression it doesn't go much on rules: For example could, should, and would. (Got it...?) No... Talk, and walk, folk and yolk, calf and half, and the lonely salmon. Why does a fish get a silent letter, seems a bit unfair on the poor fish, an extra lesson in school.

  • "M" & "N": One has to go when they're neighbours! "M" usually yields (mnemonic). However put the pair at the back of the bus together and M beats N on more than a few occasions (Autumn, column, condemn, and damn) "M" can be Mean right?

  • "O": Hides when paired with "e" or "u". There are people that are rough and tough enough to put a leopard in jeopardy).

  • "P": Takes a break in "ps, pt, and pn" at the start (pneumatic, pneumonia, psychology, and pneumonia) and often before "s" (corps, psalm, pseudo, pseudonym, pseudoscience, psyche, psychiatry, psychological, psychology, and psychotic).

  • "Q": Found one word, "lacquer," where it hides.

  • "R": Depends on your accent! Some countries pronounce "R" everywhere (ironically with rhotic accents, such as South West England, Scotland, Ireland, and most of the United Sates and Canada), while others give "R" the silent treatment (non-rhotic accents, such as modern England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, & South Africa).

  • "S": Hisses less often after "i" (hiss, kiss, and loss) or before "l" (aisle, island and isle). Who knows what happened to "debris" There's really no need to throw and extra "s" on that word

  • "T": Takes a breather in "asthma" and after "s" (Christmas). It also likes to nap in "sten, ften, stle" (fasten, and listen), but not always (often). Often pronounced "offen and often" it seems you can have it both ways if it's "often". We might have to moisten that for you to swallow. "T", also doesn't seem to like L and goes quite when put together at dinner parties. "T" will often bristle up, when L whistles, during the hustle and bustle at Thistle Castle.

  • "U": gets nervous around "G" (baguette, catalogue colleague, dialogue guard, guess guide, guilt, guitar and tongue) and some adverbs in (beautifully, and wonderfully).

  • "V": Is always out partying with F. You cant silent these guys without a struggle.

  • "W": Stays quiet before "r" (wrap, wrinkle, and wrote) and "h" (who, whoever, and whole), and in some common words (answer, sword, and two).

  • "X": Takes a French vacation at the end of words like faux, roux and doux, faux pas, and with the plural of chou and reseau, become choux and reseaux respectively.

  • "Y": Depends on its friends to decide if it speaks.

  • "Z": Borrows French invisibility in "rendezvous."

Remember: These are just general guidelines. English, like any language, loves throwing in exceptions to keep things interesting! what might be called a "curve ball". However, with these tricks up your sleeve, you'll be pronouncing those silent letters like a pro in no time.

Share your silent letter discoveries and triumphs in the comments below! Let's make mastering English pronunciation a community effort. By Mrs Nona

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