Feb 1, 2011

Happy February! (Silent letters in English)

Welcome to February! Did January go by fast, or what??? It seems like just a couple of days ago that we were eating our traditional lucky grapes.
February is one of those English words which has a silent letter. These are letters which we write but don't pronounce. If your native language has a similar feature, this will probably be intuitive for you; if not, please accept my apologies, because it does make some words a bit difficult! In February, the first r isn't usually pronounced, so the word sounds more like "Febuary." The way to work we these words is to omit the silent letter and pronounce the word as if it wasn't there. Here's a list of some other common silent letters with example words:

p: psychic, receipt, psychology
b: comb, dumb, numb, climb, doubt, subtle, debt
l: could, should, calm, half, talk
h: honor, honest, hour
t: whistle, castle, listen
k: knee, know, knife, knowledge

It's interesting to note that for speakers of British English, r is often silent, usually when it comes at the end of a word, like mother, or when it comes before a consonant, like park. American and Irish speakers of English, on the other hand, usually pronounce these r's, unless they come from a place like the American south, where the British pronunciation of some sounds continues.
Here's a video featuring silent words. The narrator has a British accent.

P.S. For a more humorous video on silent letters, I recommend "Suicidal silent letters."

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