The vagaries of the English Language

This is what happens when you are in the bathroom stall at work, and you are given something to think about.  At my workplace, which is a factory, many women of every possible ethnicity use the bathroom.  Some of those women are not the most fastidious, and leave various kinds of trash behind.  The Facilities staff have left various messages on the inside of the stall doors to try to get the users to clean up after themselves.  The current message says:

Be Courteous, Leave the Bathroom Stall Looking Like You Were Never Here.

That got me thinking about pronunciation in English.  In the sentence above, there are two words that are only one letter different, but they are pronounced totally differently.  How would a non-English-speaker remember that Were is pronounced “Wur”, but Here is pronounced “Heer”.  And then, there is the word “There”.  Same “ere”, but pronounced differently than here and were.  How would you know that “where” is pronounced the same as “there” and not the same as “here” or “were”?  There don’t seem to be much in the way of hard and fast rules of pronunciation, so English learners just have to learn as they go.  Makes me glad I’m a native English-speaker.

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