Written and Spoken Language Are Two Different Things
This may be hard to wrap your mind around right away, but spelling and pronunciation are not necessarily closely related. Written language systems and spoken language systems are two different entities, to be sure. Some written languages are pretty consistent in their relationship to pronunciation (such as Hawaiian or Spanish), but other written languages, such English, can be quite a bit less reliable.
If you would like further evidence, try cold-reading aloud this poem written by Lord Cromer published in ‘The Spectator’ in 1902.
Our Strange Lingo
When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it’s true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word.
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
Think of hose, dose,and lose
And think of goose and yet of choose
Think of comb, tomb and bomb,
Doll and roll or home and some.
Since pay is rhymed with say
Why not paid with said I pray?
Think of blood, food and good.
Mould is not pronounced like could.
Wherefore done, but gone and lone –
Is there any reason known?
To sum up all, it seems to me
Sound and letters don’t agree.
- Lord Cromer
See what we mean?
The take-away for actors is that as you are working with scripts and new accent pronunciations, let spelling be a potential clue about pronunciation, but don’t let it be your only guide. Consult with native speakers, your DCW Registered Dialect Coach and use your ears!