Speakeasy wrote:....while French orthography is frequently the subject of well-deserved criticism, English orthography is not much better.
Indeed. In fact, in my experience French pronunciation is predictable, provided one has thoroughly learned to associate the phonetics with the various orthographic representations of each phoneme. And that's actually not that
difficult, really. There are few exceptions in French once one has the phonetics-spelling under control. Most of the exceptions (unpredictable pronunciation) in French in my experience come from foreign introduced (often English) words relatively recent arrivals in the language.
Those who don't agree have either not learned enough French yet or did not/ have not learned to associate the phonetics with the various spellings as already mentioned. Oiseau(x)
may look daunting to the uninitiated, or inexperienced, but in reality it's just two syllables [wazo]
English is nowhere near as predictable. Like French (and the majority of languages), it has an orthographic system a.k.a. spelling system which seeks to represent the phonemes of the language. However, as Speakeasy has noted, it is far from perfect. Unlike French it is not
predictable, in that, if you work out how a certain phoneme is represented in writing (even if this is involves several variations) it should become predictable and be written in one of the few predictable ways elsewhere. Nope, English is full of inconsistencies and exceptions where pronunciation is concerned.
French may have tons of grammatical exceptions, but phonetically it is not what the uninitiated may believe. oi is [wa] as in je voi
s, on voi
t, une oi
e, une boî
te, quelque foi
, des oi
seaux, etc. Pretty predictable. [o] is des oiseau
, un seau
t. Might be more. Again, pretty predictable stuff. In other words, don't let the succession of vowels frighten you, it's all pretty workable.
Almost all phonemes in French are predictable. Again, English is not predictable like this. Okay, it is, but then it's not because there are inconsistencies and numerous exceptions (that French does not have). What Speakeasy mentioned already, illustrates this. There's no reason serious or experienced learners should be finding French spelling unpredictable.
On the other hand, it can be tricky sometimes knowing how to spell French word you're hearing for the first time as, like my examples of oi show above, the same sound can be written several ways. Anyway... walks away holding a pancarte (or pencarte?) - in English, a placard with "Stop the French bashing" scrawled on it - "English is worse!".