Avoiding spelling mistakes.

North and South

The familiar words north and south offer some unexpected risks to Thai writers of English theses or research papers. With short words that we are very familiar with, we tend to relax when we write them. We may not be as careful as we are with words that we know in advance are longer and more difficult. This may explain why in Thai English, the word South       is sometimes written wrongly as Soth and the word North is mistakenly written as Noth. This may also be a case of the writer of Thai English trying to imitate in writing how the word sounds to them or is prounounced by them. By leaving out important vowels and consonants, or speaking in what we hope is a refined or British way, the word north may sometimes sound like noth, just as south may sound something like soth. As always, it is helpful to try to get the pronunciation right even for short, simple words that we think we know very well. Once we know the standard English pronunciation for a word, then it is far more likely we will be able to figure out all the letters that should be in it. Most importantly, it will be less probable that we will leave out important letters from any word. There are several quick ways to find out the English pronunciation of any word. These approaches work for any word, short or long. Since we are discussing the case of the words north and south, we can look up these words on an online dictionary such as Merriam-Webster’s. When we get to the page with information about the word, we should look for the little icon of a speaker and click on that. This should give us a sample of computer generated pronunciation in standard English speech. The problem with Merriam-Webster’s or other such dictionary sites is that they do not always offer pronunciation examples for every word. If there is only a word close to the word we are looking for, that may not always help. Plus, unless we save an English language dictionary like this among our favorites in our online browser, we may forget the name of the dictionary we have learned from. It may be a nuisance to try to find it again. Fortunately, another option exists. We can just do a Google search for

pronounce north

pronounce the word north


how to pronounce north

In all these cases, we get search results with a video. It is best not to click on the first video that comes up, because sometimes it can give us too much information or advertisements, or other material we do not need. All we want to know is how a word sounds. So when the Google results appear for a search for pronounce north, the best thing to do next is to click on the video tab, giving us a choice of videos to watch or listen to.

As we see, there is one video that is over one minute long and another that is eleven seconds long. Naturally since students are always in a hurry, with no time to waste, it is best to get the pronunciation from the shortest video available. As with the online dictionary sound icon, if we need to rehear the pronunciation, it is easy to just reload the video and play it again. Most of the short YouTube videos of pronunciation of English language words contain the word being spoken twice. There is no need to be shy about listening to a word until it sounds clear in our ears. The advantage of using a video, as opposed to a real live farang, is that we can ask a video to repeat an infinite number of times, and there is never a problem. A live farang may have other things to do, and not enjoy repeating a word after several efforts. Also, the fact is that some native-born English speakers also make mistakes in pronunciation and are not sure how to pronounce words. If they have not made an effort to study standard American or British speech, their pronunciation may also be misleading. So for verifying pronunciation, in many cases, a short online video or online dictionary with speech features can be better than a person.

Whatever the reason for the mistake, these words are so common that it is worth getting them right. A quick search on Koha reveals that the word north turns up over 3000 times in titles and other information related to books and other materials in the collection of the Thammasat University Libraries. A similar search for the word south results in twice as many results.

As with many short and simple words, the origins of north and south are somewhat mysterious. North is traced back to ancient languages such as Old English and Old Saxon. It is possible that in these languages, north meant something to the left or below, since for ancient people who were facing the sun, which rises in the East, the direction north would be to the left of that. In a similar way, the origins of the word south are little confused, although it is certainly an ancient word, going back to Old English. In that language, it may have meant to the side of the sun. Instead of worrying about that, it may be better to just focus on as many similar words as possible, to help us avoid leaving out any essential letters. The words Nordic and normal, like north, also begin with the letters nor:. If we invent a sentence to remind us of the letter r that must be in the middle of the word north, this may help:

A normal Nordic winter happens in the north.

The Nordic countries are normally in the north of Europe.  

By contrast, many English language words start with the letters sou:








Many sentences are possible:

While traveling in the south of France, we ate souffles and sourdough bread.

The students bought the sourcebook about the south as a souvenir.

Music of the African-American South is noted for its soulful sound.

Any of these should help us recall that a letter u should be in the center of the word south.

(All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)