The “Extra Consonant Letters: sh, wh, ch, th, ng, si
Many alphabet books show the picture of a ship for the letter S.
No wonder children get confused!
“S” is for “seal.” “SH” is for “ship.”
Here are eight letter-combinations that need to be taught as “letters” in their own right.
The letter-combination sh represents the consonant sound heard in ship and wish. It is the hushing sound we make when we want someone to be quiet.
The /hw/ sound is a sound like blowing out a candle. Many Americans make no distinction between words that begin with wh and words that begin with w, but I’d still avoid an ABC book that shows the illustration of a whale for the letter W.
“W” is for “web.” “WH” is for “whale.”
The letter combination ch is used to represent the unique sound of /tch/ as in church.
Ch also serves as an alternate spelling for /k/, as in Christmas, and /sh/, as in chef.
The letter combination th is used to represent two distinct consonant sounds:
the unvoiced sound heard in thin
the voiced sound heard in this.
People learning English as a second language try to pronounce the letter g in words like sing and singing, as if the digraph ng represents the sounds of /n/ and /g/. That’s not the case. The combination ng represents a different sound, one made deep in the throat, a little higher in the throat than the sound /g/. It is not voiced. It is, in a sense, swallowed.
The letter combination si represents the zh sound heard in vision.