Jump to content

Menu

How to pronounce words/names/place names from other languages when you are speaking English?


Recommended Posts

For example, if you are speaking of the painter Michelangelo, should you pronounce his name as most English-speakers do with an ‘aye’ sound like the word ‘why’ in the first syllable, or should you pronounce it with an ‘eee’ sound as it is in Italian?  Should you soften the L’s?  Does it make a difference if you are fluent in Italian or if you are a non-speaker?  What is the proper way of doing things - in the workplace? - Academia? etc.  Does it sound snobby or even mocking to pronounce words/names as in the native language if it is not your native tongue?  Or, is it incorrect/ignorant/insensitive not to do so?  Maybe I am having to ask this because English speakers have anglicized so many words/names/place names coming from other languages for so long that it almost seems like the English pronunciation is another version of correct.  What do you think?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think when there's a clearly accepted English/American pronunciation for something, it's fine to use that and can even be off-putting to use the "correct" pronunciation. I mean, there's a way that people say Michelangelo or Joan of Arc or St. Petersburg in the US. If you go all Italian, French, or Russian with it, people are going to think you're trying to be pretentious or awkward.

If it's the name of a living person, I think making an effort to pronounce it correctly is more important. If it's words in another language that aren't adopted into English, then it wouldn't really make sense to anglicize them. You may as well at least try to get it right.

  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 minutes ago, Teaching3bears said:

For example, if you are speaking of the painter Michelangelo, should you pronounce his name as most English-speakers do with an ‘aye’ sound like the word ‘why’ in the first syllable, or should you pronounce it with an ‘eee’ sound as it is in Italian?  Should you soften the L’s?  Does it make a difference if you are fluent in Italian or if you are a non-speaker?  What is the proper way of doing things - in the workplace? - Academia? etc.  Does it sound snobby or even mocking to pronounce words/names as in the native language if it is not your native tongue?  Or, is it incorrect/ignorant/insensitive not to do so?  Maybe I am having to ask this because English speakers have anglicized so many words/names/place names coming from other languages for so long that it almost seems like the English pronunciation is another version of correct.  What do you think?

IME most people think it’s pretentious to not pronounce it the American English way.  With a few exceptions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use standard American pronunciation for most things. You can sound ridiculous VERY quickly otherwise. You'd sound doubly ridiculous if you tried to correct someone's pronunciation of any given foreign word and insist they say it like a native speaker.  We just have too many stolen words to do that and not detract from communicating with our listener.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If there is a standard American pronunciation (as for Michelangelo) I use it when speaking English.

When speaking a foreign language, I use *their* pronunciation for English place and person names as well. 

Basically, proper nouns are words like any word; most have a pronunciation in the language being spoken that is appropriate to that language.

Edited by maize
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I try to answer in a way that doesn't call attention to the word.  So if I'm using the word in a sentence, I will use the standard English (American) pronunciation.  If I am in a situation in which I am giving a one-word answer, I *might* use the original pronunciation, depending on the situation.

This actually pops up in reverse for me sometimes.  I am actively working to learn Spanish and am attending a Spanish church.  Some people will say the American pronunciation for names, and some will say the Spanish.  (For example: New York or Nueva York).   Some of my friends there pronounce my name the way that I do; others pronounce it with a Spanish accent.  I am not offended when they pronounce my name a different way.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I try to pronounce brand names correctly, especially for cosmetics that I can tolerate well (e.g Estée Lauder, Christian Dior) but the staff at cosmetic counters aren’t going to be rude if I mispronounced. 
When I was working or when I am chatting with my husband’s colleague, I use whatever pronunciation I hear the most often for the “borrowed words”.

For music theory, I tried to pronounce the Italian terms (http://www.musictheory.org.uk/res-musical-terms/italian-musical-terms.php) correctly since I was a kid. I am sure I did mangled most of the pronunciations though. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I say the words to the best of my ability.  I have no great ear for language and in fact had a severe enough speech impairment that I received speech therapy from ages 4-14.  My speech was not intelligible until I was about 6 and there were words I couldn’t say until I was about 20 or so.  I definitely tend to use the anglicized word.  No one wants to be THAT DUDE who goes around correcting how Americans pronounce croissant.  

I give people’s names my absolute best effort.  
 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Typically I'd use the usual American pronunciation unless I was in some niche group that used a different one, in which case I might try to use that one.

So, with Michelangelo, if I happened to be an art historian and found out that art historians typically use an Italian-inflected pronunciation even when speaking English, then I'd do the same when speaking in an art historian capacity. (I don't know that they do this, I'm just positing a hypothetical.) Using the right jargon - including the right in-group pronunciation - is very important.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I speak to my audience.
So, talking to other American’s, I’d say Michelangelo like the American Michael.
With my kids, I’ll exaggerate the French pronunciation of croissant, but I’ll ask the bakery for cruSAHNTS.
In a small NJ Italian place, I’ll order “maniGOT”, and anywhere else I just won’t have the manicotti, lol.
A living person’s name, I’ll say it as they do. For example, Angela Merkel. My brain does NOT like to cooperate with that one, given all the American Angelas I know, but it does it anyway.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another vote for knowing your audience and aiming for communication.

For example several towns near me have French names that have local pronunciations that are nowhere near French.  Using the French pronunciation would truly impede communication.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are words that have well established English counterparts, e.g. Milan v Milano, Florence v Firenze, or established pronunciations, like Paris (vs “Paree”). There are also just wrong pronunciations. I will not pronounce Tokyo as “To-kee-oh,” but I don’t necessarily elongate the vowels fully in English. I never say “karry-oh-kee” for karaoke, and I only pronounce “karate” as “kuh-rah-dee” if I am talking about the movie with Ralph Macchio. And I definitely don’t say “croy-sant.” I think there’s a big difference between pronouncing something correctly and also making a big deal about it (pause, take big breath, and then say it slowly with emphasis). You can pronounce it correctly or more or less correctly without being dramatic, and you don’t need to overly Americanize everything and turn every “t” into a “d” and make it sound sloppy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...