The Phonograms and Rules are how written English works!
We sometimes receive inquiries from English speakers and English language learners around the world about whether the concepts LOE teaches apply to the English they speak.
The short answer is yes! The phonograms and spelling rules are not guides to one dialect’s pronunciation, but rather the pieces English speakers use, across the different English-speaking countries and regions, to represent our spoken language visually in writing. They are an accurate description of the relationship between spoken and written English no matter where you are from or what dialect of English you speak.
For example, the short A sound /ă/, such as in the words pat and apple, is pronounced noticeably differently in Australia, Scotland, India, and England. Its sound in a “standard” British accent (which linguists call R.P. or “Received Pronunciation”) differs from its sound in a British Cockney accent. In the U.S. you will hear different pronunciations of it in the South, Upper Midwest, and Northeast.
These many variations in the pronunciation, however, do not affect the ability of students from each of these areas to learn the sounds of the phonogram a in their dialect, learn that their pronunciation of /ă/ is the first sound of the phonogram a, learn that this sound is what a usually says in closed syllables, and use this knowledge to read thousands of words with this spelling.
Similarly, an American English speaker will pronounce the phonogram OR with an audible consonant sound of R in the end (this is called a rhotic pronunciation). Most British English speakers will pronounce it without the consonant sound (non-rhotic).
However, once students from either country have learned the sound this phonogram represents in their speech, they will be able to apply it easily to decode and spell words like for, order, and north. It doesn’t matter that they pronounce it differently from each other; the phonogram works in both dialects.
So learning the phonograms and rules is unquestionably useful for all English speakers. The vast majority of English words are spelled and pronounced in ways that follow the phonograms and spelling rules across the English-speaking world. Once you learn the sound a phonogram represents in your speech, you can use that phonogram to read words.
Spelling differences that exist
While pronunciation of some sounds, especially the vowels, varies a bit by region, in most cases the spellings of English words generally do not.
A small percentage of English words are not spelled the same everywhere. However, in most of these cases phonograms and rules still apply! The differences in UK and US Spelling generally fall into the following five categories:
1. Spellings where the two variants follow the spelling rules, but in a different way. For example, the phonograms AY and EY both say /ā/. Both gray and grey are phonetic, regular ways of spelling this word. Similarly, spellings like center and theater follow the rules, using the phonogram ER to spell the /er/ at the end. However, centre and theatre follow the rules as well; in English we sometimes add an E because every syllable must have a written vowel, as in table, purple, or acre. Both spellings follow the phonograms and rules.
2. Words that make use of a French phonogram in UK English but that use an Anglicized spelling of the same sound in US English.
- OUR saying /er/: color/colour, harbor/harbour, favor/favour, etc.
- QUE saying /k/: check/cheque, mask/masque (note that while these particular words differ between regions, most words ending in the advanced sound of QU, /k/, are French loan words that are spelled the same way in US and UK English. Antique, unique, critique
3. Different pronunciations of the same spelling that follow the rules in a different way.
- For example, the syllable stress or syllable breaks might differ and the vowel might say a different sound. For example, oregano: In US English, the second vowel is stressed, closed syllable; the vowel is short. The third syllable says a schwa sound: /ō rĕg ɘ nō/. For some British speakers, the third syllable is stressed; the second syllable is open and pronounced as a schwa: /ō rə gä nō/.
- Or a different rule might apply. For example, compost is spelled the same in the U.S. and the U.K., but the U.S. pronounces the second O as long, while in the U.K. it is short. Both pronunciations follow Spelling Rule 8: “I or O may say /ī/ or /ō/ before two consonants.” Just as wind is pronounced with a short I as a noun and a long I as a verb, both pronunciations of compost follow the rules.
- One common one: British English uses a broad A sound in a closed syllable in many words where a short A is used in U.S. English. Bath, wrath, cast, fast, glass, glance.
4. Spellings where one system’s standard spelling follows the spelling rules and phonograms, and the other contains an exception. (For some of these spellings, both variants are used on both sides of the Atlantic but one is more common in US English and one in UK English. For other words, only one is recognized as a standard spelling in each region.)
- canceled/cancelled (both are phonetic, but the first follows the standard suffixing rules while the second does not)
5. Different spellings that reflect differences in pronunciation. These are rare. Aluminium
Teach the spellings and pronunciations your students use
Logic of English pronunciation guides, such as what you'll find on our online Phonogram Cart or on the the backs of our Basic Phonogram Flash Cards, use sample words. This is intentional: the goal is not that students learn to pronounce the sounds the way we do, but that they learn the the sound that each phonogram represents in their own speech. So the teacher should use the sample word as the guide for how to pronounce each sound.
Similarly, if you live in a country that spells certain words differently than we do (we are in the U.S.), or if there are words that you stress on a different syllable or pronounce differently in some other way, you can simply teach the words and analyze rules as they apply where you live.