The Chaos Poem

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Can you properly pronounce all of these words?  It’s okay if you can’t. Not even most native English speakers are likely to correctly pronounce every word in the excerpt. English is a funky language with many idiosyncrasies. Vowels don’t always make the same sound. Even words that are spelled almost the same, like horse and worse, don’t have similar sounds. And there is no way to know how similar or different two words sounds unless you have heard them before! Then you have to remember how it should be pronounced. This might sounds a little discouraging and put one off from learning English, but it is also what makes it a fun language. There is a little unpredictability when it comes to speaking English. Plus, no one will think poorly of you. Everyone makes mistakes. Someone you ask might not even know the right pronunciation. Take a look at the next section of the poem:

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,

Dies and diet, lord and word,

Sword and sward, retain and Britain.

(Mind the latter, how it's written.)

Now I surely will not plague you

With such words as plaque and ague.

But be careful how you speak:

Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;

Cloven, oven, how and low,

Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

The excerpts above are actually only a small section from a poem titled “The Chaos”. Written by Gerard Nolst Trenité.  The poem is in fact twelve stanzas long and contains 767 words—not all are hard to pronounce, though.

Take a look at the entire poem and see if you are able to pronounce every word right:

Here is a link to a Youtube video where you can listen to the entire poem and how every word is pronounced:

If you can figure out how to pronounce most of the words in this poem then you are well on your way to mastering the English language. You might even be better at the English language than most native speakers!



6105    |   3