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As a non native English speaker, I am astonished at the amount of English word pronounced different from their spelling.

For instance, 'Would' is pronounced like 'Wood', 'Whole' is pronounced like "Hole", and despite 'though', 'through', 'thorough' and 'thought' have similar spelling, their pronounciation is just vaguely similar, among many others.

I understand people pronounce words as they want regardless of spelling, but, is there a particular reason why this happens?

Thank you very much.

marked as duplicate by tchrist Aug 19 '17 at 14:57

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  • 'Despite' isn't spelled like it sounds either. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 19 '17 at 15:05
  • Please read this, and all the duplicates. Current English spelling does not represent current English pronunciation! It's an error of the first degree to think it does. English writing encodes many things, like how a word was pronounced back in Middle English and its etymology and history. No written form in any language spoken by more than a single person at a single time maps to the phonetics of actual speech, only to phonemes, a mental construct. No child learns a language from its writing, only its speech. – tchrist Aug 19 '17 at 15:09
  • Discounting the 600–1200 million non-native speakers and learners, English still has some 400 million native speakers scattered across the globe. It’s impossible to represent the native speech of so many people in so many places with any single phonetic encoding that would represent all versions. By using a standardized writing system instead, everyone everywhere recognizes the same word no matter how it is said by others. If it were written phonetically, they could not, and English literature and literacy alike would die forever. Learn phonemics —not phonetics— just like natives all do. – tchrist Aug 19 '17 at 15:22