Practise your English

These little bits of nonsense were devised for my classes at the village school in Romania. I’m not trained to teach English as a foreign language, so concentrating on good pronounciation was the main thing. 0ne of the main difficulties with English, for Romanian speakers (Romanian is a phonetic language where every letter is pronounced and always in the same way), is the wild chaos of its pronounciation rules. These little exercises don’t make much logical sense, but they should help fix some of the stranger irregularities in students’ heads.

Thirty-three things

-th is one of the difficult sounds in English if you don’t have it in your language. What makes it worse is that there are two ways to say it: the hard way and the soft way. There are also some words when -th sounds like -t, when the -h is silent. (We English like to catch you out…) These sentences will give you some practice.

A) Thorley Thynne in his thong threw the thing at the throng in the bath.

B) There were both their mother and father, and with them, three feet further on, was Cathy Thorn, the thieving therapist.

C) For the sixth time, Thaddeus Rother thought this was the way north, but the path stretched south through thick and thin.

D) On Thursday, Timothy thanked the thatcher, then breathed in the scent from the bath as he stroked his throat with his thumb.

E) There is no thyme by the Thames, thought Ethel Thompson from Thailand.

F) Athelstan Smith thinks that other bathers ought to bother with the body in the bothy.

G) As the thermostat proved his theory, Winthrop Thingwall watched the weather from the smithy and wondered whether he heard thunder.

H) Will Gwyneth Thackeray ever thaw in the theatre? Wordsworth thought it might be worth the bother. Unless Gwyneth’s thrush thwarted her, that is.

I) Macbeth got a thrill when he thought he should have the thistle throne rather than be a thane.

J) Beth Rathbone thought that there were thirty-three things that she ought to throw at them as she thrust the throttle through thoroughly, with a thud.

K) Thrashing a thousand thimbles was not thriving a thousand-fold for Thorndyke Threadgill, but the throb threatened his thirst for a thesaurus.

Would you please leave me a -th sentence of your own?

I spy with my little aye

Vowel sounds in English are many and various. There are only five vowels (a, e, i, o, u) but we make them work hard, squeezing lots of different sounds out of each. And that’s before we start on diphthongs. Here we explore the various spellings that are pronounced like the personal pronoun I(phonetically, ai). The story is nonsense, but it gives you as many possibilities as I could dream up.


Shhhh in church

-sh and -ch cause problems, especially in Romance languages where an h after c makes the c hard (eg cheile, chimen in Romanian). Confused? These sentences will help. Or make your confusion worse…

A) Down in the chasm, she crunches a carrot in silence.

B) It’s a short service in church.

C) Biscuit crumbs are still on his shirt.

D) Switch to a stitch that a witch can sew.

E) Corned beef hash has mashed potatoes.

F) Show the sandwich to six starving sheep.

G) Change can certainly cause chaos in the city centre.

H) The choir sings a chord in the chant

Phase Five

Here are some tongue-twisters to get used to the -ph and -f sounds.

A) Fifty thin professors photograph the Vatican.

B) Peter Piper picked a pitch for the fourth phase.

C) The trophy that Sophy won is fine so far.

D) A phenomenal pheasant flew through the photo-finish.

D) Phoebe had a phobia of phosphorescent phoenixes.

E) A physician doesn’t do physics; that’s a physicist.

F) Phone the Pope for a phrase of philosophy.