I do not encounter so big problems with the English language although I'm not a native English speaker. But I'm curious why some languages (like English or French) are written different from the way they are read? And the German or Slavic languages are WYSIWYG. So especially for beginners (but I use them sometimes too) there are transcriptions in the dictionaries how to read the corresponding word.

Is this because in the middle ages the west European societies were separated in classes (castes) and some of them were privileged to be literate and some not? Or this is a special way to save the pronunciation of the word?

Thanks in advance and regards!

PS: Some examples (the entire language is an example but... ;))

  • example [ig'za:mpl]
  • sometimes ['sʌmtaimz]
  • literate ['litərət]
  • language ['længwidʒ]
  • although [ɔːlˈðəʊ]
  • because [bi'kɔz]
  • you [ju]
  • ...

and in German the corresponding words:

  • Beispiel
  • manchmal
  • gebildet
  • obwohl
  • weil
  • du / ihr / Sie

And here (in German) you can see few exceptions too.

  • "ei" is actually [ai].
  • "sp" is [ʃp]
  • "ch" is [h]
  • vowel + "h" = long vowel / obwohl [obvo:l] / ihr [i:r]
  • "ie" is [i:]

In English:

  • "A" is [a] and [ei]
  • "C" is [s] and [k]
  • "E" is [e] and [i] and nothing at the end of the word
  • etc...

But in German "A" is only [a], "E" is only [e]...

I'll not give you examples in Slavic languages.

  • Hugely related, and may answer this question: Question about the Great Vowel Shift
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 10, 2017 at 7:40
  • However, specific examples of writing/reading differences would help identify what particular aspect of English you're asking about. The Great Vowel Shift doesn't explain how -gh is not pronounced in through against its sound in cough.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 10, 2017 at 7:42
  • Because we decided on the spelling of the word before we "decided" on its pronunciation. We don't change the spelling just because the pronunciation changes.
    – tchrist
    Aug 10, 2017 at 11:04