English is can be pronounced different way in many cases. I've been wondering how they can search the word at a dictionary?

For example, if somebody heard the word "talk", it sounds like "tok" If he doesn't know "talk", he will search it in a dictionary with "tok" and couldn't find the right word.

I want to know the process Americans learn a new word when they are children.

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    When any person is a child, learning their mother tongue, they do not look words up in a dictionary. By the time they learn to read, they are already fluent in their language. Americans are no different from any other child around the world in how they learn their mother tongue. You have no doubt learned your language in the same way.
    – oerkelens
    Jan 2, 2018 at 12:50
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    This might be a good question to ask on Language Learning - it seems to be more about language acquisition in general than learning English in particular.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 2, 2018 at 12:53
  • @oerkelens My point is, when people hear a word they don't know. Even adults sometimes encounter words they don't know. When it comes to my language, Korean, each letter has only one pronunciation. For example "ㅏ" is always pronounced as "ㅏ" So even though I hear new word, I can find it in a dictionary. But in English, "A" can be "long a" or "short a" etc.
    – Ting Choe
    Jan 2, 2018 at 13:16
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  • @ColleenV Ty. Then it would be good to delete it?
    – Ting Choe
    Jan 2, 2018 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


Complex words that are likely to need dictionary help actually are fairly predictable as far as pronunciation (especially if based on Latin or Greek roots), or words you would encounter in text anyway (like medical words).

For example, "intransigent" - a complex word, and it follows predictable rules.

"Once" is completely weird. You would only know that by being taught.

A lot of the small words with bizarre pronunciation patterns are "basic" words and learned in early school through repetition and study.

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    I think there are three ways. 1. Asking someone 2. Being taught 3. Guessing.
    – Ting Choe
    Jan 2, 2018 at 13:35

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