Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to pronounce "ch" in English words

The digraph “ch” can be pronounced in four different ways in English. How can this be possible?

Though it is a Germanic language, English has borrowed words from many other languages that it's been in contact with through the centuries, but most influences come from French and the classic languages Greek and Latin.
English letters and letter combinations of Greek origin or influence
While most words that contain ch are pronounced with the / / sound (like in church), many words that come from French still retain their original pronunciation in a way. That explains why words like chic or champagne are pronounced with a sh-like sound (phonetically /ʃ /).
In this video you can hear many of these words.
On the other hand, words coming from Greek retain the /k/ sound, as they were said by the Greek and the Romans as well. Some well known examples are: architect, orchestra, choir,... and of course, the many words related to medicine that come from Greek and are used in most modern European languages.
Listen to many of these words in this video. If you want to read a thorough list of these words follow this link.





Well, that makes three different sounds: //, /ʃ / and /k/, and I said four different sounds. Which is the last one? The sound / χ /, which sounds like a strong aspirated /h/ and is used in Scottish words of Gaelic origin such as loch /loχ/ (lake), which is written lough in Ireland.
For a complete chart with all the phonemes of English, follow this link.

25 comments:

  1. Very useful, thanks very much!

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    1. I'm glad you find this blog useful. Thanks for your comment. Cheers!

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  2. Replies
    1. Thank you for visiting my blog, Abdulaziz. Greetings from Spain!

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  3. loved the information, thank you very much. Very useful!!

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    1. I'm glad you liked it! Thank you for your kind comment! Cheers!

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  4. Replies
    1. I'm sorry it didn't help you. Thanks for visiting, anyway. Cheers!

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  5. It is very useful .Do one thing more i have not seen the video but it will very helpful if you write down all the words startint wuth'ch' and tell their proununciation with it.

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  6. Hi, Inma,
    Very useful videos. Thanks a lot. I'm wondering if it should be "chauffeur" instead of "chauffer" in one of the videos.

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    1. That's right! It should be "Chauffeur", which is also the French spelling. It has already been edited. Thank you very much for pointing it out. Cheers!

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  7. Excellent information, I would recommend an application that has helped me to learn English. I hope it will be useful for all
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pronuntiapp

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing, Sheyla! Cheers!

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  8. I have a last name that originated from Serbia (Zorich), but my first language is Russian. Somehow, majority of English-speaking people pronounce my name with a K at the end instead as it should be ch (as in church). Where is the problem? I would really appreciate your help.

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    1. Hello Mikhail!
      I'm afraid I can't help you here. Let's see if any other readers can come up with an answer.
      Thanks for visiting!

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    2. Thanks for these informatin and I hope more and more

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    3. Thank you very much for visiting! I'll try to write more posts soon. Cheers!

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  9. can you explain me why spinach is pronounced in a different way.... I have read your explanation but I don't understand this word... for example spinach and tech

    Thak you

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    1. Hi! "Spinach" is pronounced with / tʃ / as in "church". "Tech" is pronounced with /k/ as it is an abbreviation of "technology".
      I hope this has been of help. Cheers!

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  10. thanks
    but how can I differentiate between ch = k and ch = sh for new words.

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  11. It depends on the word. A new word in a language can generally be made by combining others, in which case it will be pronounced like its precedent. For example, the new coinage "Chillax" is a portmanteau word that combines "Chill" and "relax", therefore, it is pronounced as in "chill" /tʃɪˈl/.
    On the other hand, many neologisms (i.e. new words) come from other languages, and therefore they tend to be pronounced as in the original language.
    Bear in mind that completely invented words are very rare.
    I hope you can find this explanation useful.
    Thanks for visiting!
    Cheers!

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  12. Your explanation, given here, of how to differentiate between ch = k and ch = sh for new words helped me clear my confusion with this type of words.

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    Replies
    1. I'm so glad that it helped you, Isabel! Thanks for your comment. Cheers!!

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