I learned English after Lithuanian and Russian. In both of those languages identical sounds nearly always have identical spellings, like ‘keep, sleep, deep’; and identical spellings absolutely always have just one pronunciation. This led me to believe that the spellings of all languages worked like that.
It is hard to describe how shocked and flabbergasted I was when our English teacher explained to us in one our first lesson, that English spelling didn’t always work like that. – We would meet many words in which identical letters had different sounds, like ‘man‘ and ‘many’, or ‘our’ and ‘your’, and we would just have to remember how to pronounce them.
Learning to write was even worse, as we found out as soon as we started to learn the numbers 1 – 10. ‘Three, five, six, nine’ and ‘ten’ were o.k.; but one [wun], two [too], four [for], seven [sevn] and eight [ait] seemed unbelievable.
Sixty years on, I can read English pretty well and spell slightly better than most people. – Better than my English grammar school educated husband.
But the lack of identical pronunciations for identical spellings like ‘on, only, once’ keeps bugging me still, as do the hundreds of irregular spellings for identical sounds, like ‘leave, sleeve, believe’. – http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.co.uk – My brain keeps insisting that this is simply wrong.
Sadly, the many visual irregularities like ‘dizzy busy‘, ‘funny money‘, ‘fool rule‘ have also prevented me from ever getting to enjoy English poetry. Having grown up with identical sounds looking the same, I kept noticing the English differences and being annoyed and distracted by them.
I loved Lithuanian and Russian poems – for their looks as much as their sounds and meanings.