Words and Pronunciation: Silent letters in IELTS Exam

Words and Pronunciation: Silent letters in IELTS Exam

In English language one rarely sounds out all the letters that are seen in a word. There are certain words in the English language, written in a way which seems different from their sound. The ‘silent’ letters are a result of various developments that the English language has gone through. The invasion by French and Latin language and standardization of sounds in the English Language has refined and softened English. It leads to silent letters in particular words. The ‘silent word’ is a baffling mystery for the IELTS test takers which thwarts them from achieving great scores.

Let us take a look at some common words with silent letters, and how to pronounce them:

The silent K:

 The letter K is a hard sounding letter.  When the letter ‘K’ precedes the letter ‘N’ at the start of the word, it becomes silent. For example

•  Knife — is pronounced with a long ‘I’ vowel sound, as in “life.”

•  Knit — is pronounced with a short vowel sound, as in “lit.”

•  ‘Know’ = noh. ‘Now’ = naow.

Knock, knack, knapsack, knickers, knuckle are some of the words in which you can witness the silent K at the beginning and hard K sound at the end of the word.

The silent P:

 This is one of the most exciting letters. Usually, the letter P makes a popping sound at the front of our mouth. It is traditionally silenced when it precedes the letter ‘S’. For example:

Psychology: pronounced as ‘Sychology’

Psychiatry: pronounced as ‘Sychiatry’ or so.

The letter P in words Pneumonia and receipt, is also silent.

The silent ‘T’:

Sound of the letter ‘T’ is one of the most recognisable and robust sounds in the English language, but when it is used in the middle of L-I-S-T-E-N, it disappears. The T letter becomes slightly shorter than the letter ‘S’. Listen becomes lissen, whistle become Whissle.

There are a few more words where T is silent: Hustle, Jostle, Apostle, Bristle, and wrestle.

“Ough” Words:

Let us look at the words:

Though: The OUGH in though is pronounced like an ‘oh’ sound, just like you are saying THROW.

Through: The OUGH in through is pronounced with an -ew sound, just like you say ‘threw.’

The best way to get through these words is repetition. It is critical to memorize and master these silent letters. The best way to prepare for the IELTS exam is to listen to the pronunciation of each word very carefully. You will be able to identify which letter will remain silent, and which letter is prominent.

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