So, what happens if you are a lovely language in need of an alphabet and a spelling system, but you are not so lucky as to get two cool smart brothers to develop your alphabet with love and care, inventing new letters for all the unique sounds that do not exist in the Greek alphabet which they take as a starting point? What if it is different monks and scribes scattered all over the country, each developing their own spelling system, and using combinations of Latin letters for your unique sounds that do not exist in the Latin alphabet which they take as a starting point? They know that you already have special symbols for such sounds but refuse to use them because "your runes are associated with dark forces and magic!". What happens later, when a couple more languages get mixed up with you during numerous invasions, bringing with them their own spelling systems?
What happens is the mess that the English spelling is!
There are several interesting books around on the topic - and the summer, of course, is the best time to read! Some of them are written by fabulous linguists, like this one by the excellent David Crystal. It is a true history of the English spelling with lots of cool facts:
This next one I'd like to recommend is written by Masha Bell, a teacher of English from England who has Russian/Lithuanian roots, i.e. whose first experience with learning to read was a lot easier due to the fact that in both Russian and Lithuanian you basically have phonetic spelling.
Even if you don't want to buy these books, just reading a few pages that open on Amazon gives you a totally different perspective on English reading rules than what we are accustomed to. (Just click on the pictures of the books.)
Another interesting source is this article by Kristian Berg and Mark Aronoff which basically drives you to the same conclusion:
there is only one way to teach intermediate/advanced non-native English students how to read difficult words in English. Through experience. The more audio they listen to, the more videos they watch - the more words they are exposed to. Even if they don't really use them themselves, they will recognise them while reading out loud.
My name is Elena Rafaelevna Watson, I have been teaching English as a foreign language for over 25 years now. I have also been translating and interpreting (English/Russian) for over 20 years.