Will the Thompson Vowel Chart work for me? I am learning English at home, without a teacher.

Absolutely! All you have to know is the correct pronunciation of 16 colors in English.(available on the English is Stupid YouTube channel) This “no exception” system is effective for students who are challenged with the pronunciation of tricky words like women or build. One morning with the Thompson Vowel Chart and you will learn that both of these words are Pink, and you will pronounce them correctly for the rest of your life.  TLC’s text, English is Stupid, is central to the program and will give you more insight on how to apply it in everyday life.

Although English is our first language, our son has trouble reading out loud. Is there anything in your book [English is Stupid] that can help us?

The TLC method is not designed to help people read or write English.  However, it can help people understand the crippling disconnect between sounds and letters. There is no logic to reading but there is a window of hope. After memorizing how to spell a critical mass of English words (300 as a target) spelling and reading become easier. It is hard work and there is no trick to it.

I caution strongly against confusing children with reading ’rules’ that are simply not true. Here are a few to avoid. Never say, “Sound it out” – sounding out is half their problem (for example: E can come before I any time and when two vowel go walking they can make any sound at all). English is not a phonetic language and there are no rules, only hard work, to reading.

In China we learned the IPA [International Phonetic Alphabet]. Why is it necessary to learn a new phonetic alphabet?

The IPA was a great idea in 1886 when it was designed to help people learn many languages at once. Unfortunately, it never worked well for English. Therefore for ESL it occurs as replacing one set of nonsense symbols with another. IPA gasped its dying breath with the launch of Microsoft as IPA symbols are not on computer keyboards. The English Phonetic Alphabet is the best phonetic alphabet on the market today.

I am angry. You say that grammar is not important in speaking English. Now I feel like all the years I spent learning grammar were a waste of time!

Learning grammar is not a waste of time.  However, grammar is much more important for writing English than speaking it.  Strangely, sorting out rules and worrying about grammar mistakes can actually interfere with a student’s confidence and ability to speak.  Once students understand the differences between how writing and speaking work, they begin to master both confidently.

My English teacher has a British accent and corrects the pronunciation I learned from American TV shows like Friends. Is American TV wrong?

American accents are not wrong. The differences between UK and North American accents are only small. For example UK pronounces ‘t’ as a /t/ in the middle of words such as ‘pretty’, ‘little’ and ‘water’ but NA use /d/ and ‘pretty’, ‘little’ and ‘water’ sound like /pridy/, / lidel/ and /woder/. Parts of Europe and India have UK materials, the rest of the world prefers to adopt a neutral North American accent. Both are fine and your teacher should not be fussing about such silly details.