The first thing that a person starting to learn English encounters is the difficulty in reading most of the words. On this score, there are many jokes among even the native speakers of this language, let alone those for whom it is not native. One Dutch linguist even wrote a poem containing the most difficult and controversial cases of English phonetics - it is difficult to read it without mistakes even for those who know the language well.
But jokes are jokes, but you need to learn to pronounce the words correctly. Reading rules in English help with this. For beginners, they will be a little difficult, but this is only out of habit. Having understood them and well consolidated the theory with examples, you will see how much they will make your life easier.
What are these rules for?
Without knowing them, it will be difficult to learn to read. Of course, you can memorize the transcription of the words that you come across. But in this case, your reading ability will be very limited. But what if you come across a word with a familiar root, but an incomprehensible suffix or prefix? Or a proper name? In such cases, mistakes are inevitable if you do not know the rules of reading in English. For beginners, they are especially important because they allow you to feel and understand the logic of building a language at all levels, starting with phonetics.
The following will tell you how to read different sounds and their combinations, how to teach English rules to children and what exercises you can use to learn how to read and memorize transcription symbols.
Let's start with the simplest, and then we will move on to the complex. Most consonants in English differ little from Russian ones. But still the difference is felt. In general, the following characteristic features can be distinguished:
- always firmly pronounced;
- voiced sounds are not stunned at the ends of words;
- after the sounds [p, t, k] there is aspiration, since the lips open faster than in the pronunciation in Russian;
- the sound [w] is pronounced with two lips;
- when pronouncing the sound [v], on the contrary, only the lower lip is involved;
- many sounds [t, d, s, z, n, l, tʃ, dʒ] are pronounced with the tip of the tongue touching the alveoli, and not the teeth (as in Russian pronunciation).
Vowel reading: 4 types of syllable
We continue to analyze the rules of reading in English. For beginners with examples, it is better to present the material. Then it will be clearer how to pronounce this or that sound.
There are only six vowels in the English alphabet, but the difficulty of reading them is due to the presence of four different types of syllables:
- vowel + r;
- vowel + r + vowel.
Let's consider them all in order, not forgetting about examples.
In an open syllable, the vowel is read as it is called in the alphabet: O is read as "ou (eu)", U is read as a long "u", etc. The only exception is the letter Y, which is pronounced as "ah". How can you tell if a syllable is open? It must end in a vowel, which can be:
- at the end of a monosyllabic word (me, go);
- at the beginning or in the middle (game, time, music);
- next to another vowel (suit).
In a closed syllable that ends in a consonant (sometimes doubled), the vowels are read truncated:
- Aa [æ] turns into a cross between the Russian sounds [a] and [e], for example: cat, apple.
- Uu [ʌ] is similar to the Russian sound [a], for example: rubber, jump.
- Ii [i] reads like a short Russian sound [and], for example: sit, finger.
- Ee [e] is read with the sound [e], for example: pen, egg.
- Oo [ɔ] is read by a short sound [o], for example: shop, fox.
- Yy [i] under stress must be read as a short sound [and], for example: mystery, myth.
This is the minimum that the rules for reading in English for beginners include. With exercises for all 4 types, it is better not to rush, but first learn well the differences between closed and open syllables. Then you can go further, to more complex cases.
The type of syllable "vowel + r" is read as follows:
- -ar pronounce with a long sound [aaa];
- -or reads long [oooh];
- -ur, -ir, -er are similar to the [o] sound, but only pronounced in the throat.
The type of syllable "vowel + r + vowel" turns the sound into a special two-part phenomenon of English phonetics - diphthong:
- Aa reads [ɛə], example: dare.
- Ee reads [iə], example: mere.
- Ii reads [aiə], example: fire.
- Uu reads [juə], example: cure.
- Yy reads [aiə], example: tire.
An exception is the letter Oo, which in the fourth type of syllable is read not by a diphthong, but simply by a long [ɔ:]. For example: more.
Reading letter combinations
Reading rules in English (for beginners and advanced learners) cannot do without explaining the various combinations of consonants and vowels. Let's start with the first ones.
Combination wr at the beginning of a word: the sound [w] is not pronounced. Examples: write, wrist, wrong.
Wh at the beginning of a word: the [h] sound is not pronounced. Examples: why, what, white. But there is an exception: if -wh is followed by the letter -o, then the sound [w] "drops out" when reading. This is how the words sound: who, whole, whose and others.
In combinations of letters kn and gn at the beginning of a word: only the sound [n] is read. Examples: knot, gnat.
The combination ng at the end of the word sounds like the sound [ŋ], pronounced through the nose (going), and in the middle of the word - just [ŋg], for example: hungry, singer.
The combination ch reads [tʃ], like the Russian sound [h '], soft. For example: cheese, coach.
The combination sh gives a sound [ʃ], similar to Russian [sh] in a mild pronunciation. For example: she, push.
The combination of letters qu reads [kw], for example: queen, quite.
The unstressed combination -our reads [ə]: color, favorite.
The combination -ous at the end of words should be read [əs]: dangerous, famous.
The combination of letters -sion after the consonant is pronounced [ʃn], for example: mission. And after the vowel sound, there is a voicing up to [ʒn], for example: decision.
Before the letters e, i, y: the consonant C is pronounced with the sound [s], the G is pronounced [dʒ]. In other cases it reads like this: C - [k], G - [g]. Compare: cell - cat, gym - game.
Vowel combinations: -ee and -ea give a long sound [i:], the combination -ai reads [ai], the combination -oo gives a long sound [u:]. For example: bee, seal, moon.
True, there are sometimes exceptions. For example, blood: in this word, the double O is read as the sound [ʌ]. But such cases are few. They are easy to remember and do not make reading much more difficult in English.
The explanation of the rules will be different for children and adults. Young "Englishmen" will learn knowledge well if they are presented with elements of a game and a fairy tale. For example, one can explain the 1st and 2nd type of reading as "open" and "closed" doors, where in the first case the letters feel free and shout their name (from the alphabet) loudly, and in the second - they are almost inaudible. In a similar way, you can compose a kind of grammatical tale and tell it to your child. An interactive element can be a task: to "disenchant" the words by reading them correctly. This makes it much easier and more interesting to memorize reading rules in English.
For elementary school
The small table below includes the rules for reading vowels in two types of syllables. For the convenience of a child who is not familiar with transcription, near the sound is placed its approximately reading, written in Russian letters. In any case, the table must be read aloud with an adult who knows the language: you need to pay attention to how the same letter behaves in different types of syllables, and figure out the suggested examples of words.
Primary school students are often asked to learn transcription badges at home. You can make a set of cards and work out like this: you read a short word, where there is a certain sound, and the child shows a card with its designation. In group work, everyone had to have their own set.
Read without hesitation
How quickly and efficiently can you remember the rules of reading in English? For beginners, exercise will be the best option. It's great if you can combine 2 types of activities: listening to samples and reading on your own. However, this approach can soon get boring, so it is good to include elements of the game and competition. For example, take two different word lists for different rules - one for you, one for a friend - and check who will read faster and with fewer mistakes. The game option can be as follows: using mixed cards with separate words and with transcription icons, find and lay out the matches.
Who needs reading rules in English? For beginners to study it (this goes without saying), for those who continue - to test themselves, and for those who have forgotten - to remember the knowledge that has not been used for a long time.