Originally Posted by fusili
Spanish is the same. You pronounce every damn syllable and strongly. There are a few silent letters, usually "h"s, but other than that, everything is pronounced.
The problem with English is that is has a long and complicated history of languages mixing. There was an early Gallic language spoken (at least I think). Then the Roman conquest added a bunch of words and grammar. Then there was the Anglo-Saxon influence (from the Angle and Saxon invaders from Germany), which I believe is the root of most grammar and syntax, but a lot of Gallic and Latin words were kept. For many words in English, there is both a German-root word and Latin-root word: Torture (German) and Rendition (Latin), Freedom (German) and Liberty (Latin) are some examples.
When the Normans conquered it, a bunch of French was included in the language, mostly to do with administration and military (army, march, marquis). Then, because of the later English empire, a bunch of other words and phrases became included, many from India.
The problem with all of this is that effectively 4 different language groups (Gallic, Latin, French and German) have all influenced English in one way or another. That is why there are no rules that make any sense, and pronunciation is so difficult.
You forgot another major influence: Scandinavian. This is often overlooked because it occurred around the time of the larger Norman conquest. This is how we get words like sky, take, small, etc.
Also, there is surprisingly little Gaelic influence in English. Remember, English didn't start at the Gaelic level, though. The aforementioned Anglo-Saxons "created" the English language, and that's where English language history begins. Despite that, considering the Gaelic languages were right on their doorstep, it is strange that there isn't more Gaelic vocabulary and grammar in English. The only word I can think of is "dad."
Originally Posted by Dado
One of English's biggest problems in terms of spelling is the fact that when we adopt foreign loanwords we just take the word in as it is spelled in whatever language it came from (typically knocking out anything vaguely resembling an accent, whether it is or not) rather than respelling it to match English rules. Sometimes we try to retain the original pronunciation, sometimes we pronounce it according to English rules (such as they are) and sometimes it just ends up an abomination following no particular rules at all.
True in the modern sense, but it seems in previous times, the word would be Anglified to more Germanic looks. Eg boeuf, which is beef in English. If the word entered English vocabulary in the 19th century or later, it probably would just be boeuf in English. There's also strange ones like the word "chic," a word which I'm sure many assume is French and associate it with things like "tre chic." However, the word is actually German, even if it doesn't look like it. It comes from German "schick" and was Frenchified to "chic" to enter French vocabulary, but when it entered English vocabulary in the 19th century, it just took an exact copy of the French version, instead of Anglifying it.