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Pronunciation of foreign names, places and more

Introduction

A frustration for anyone with a "foreign" name is that sports broadcasters, journalists and others will find it difficult to pronounce their name (or might not even care about trying to get it right).

Why should you care? Well, it's your choice of course, but most people like to hear their name pronounced the way they have grown up hearing it. It's respectful. At the same time, most people accept some compromises when two languages come into contact.

So, if someone has the Cantonese surname Ng, it's reasonable that an English speaker will have trouble knowing what to say (in fact, a long "nnn" is a good quick-imperfect choice), but it's unpleasant to have a journalist pronounce the surname as "en gee" (as happened in Melbourne), rather than asking how to say it (and many media organisations do have guides and advisors).

The table below contains my recommended Anglicised pronunciation (i.e. it uses English sound patterns, but is close to the other language) and the original language pronunciation.Note that the English version may differ from the common way people are pronouncing the name: e.g. Novak (Djokovic) is commonly pronounced "no vac" in English-language media, but the closest Anglicised version would actually sound like "novvuk" (see below). The English pronunciation suggested is appropriate for speakers of Australian and to some extent New Zealand, Standard British and related Englishes.

All words are given at two speeds (one artificially slow), with the full name and the individual names. If you listen carefully and try to ignore any bias created by the spelling, you could learn to pronounce many names. These pronunciations are my best attempt at each language and dialect. There may be small mistakes and I welcome helpful feedback to improve this.

Pronunciation of names

Name and languageOrig. lang.
recommended English

Agnieszka Radwańska

(Polish)
Tennis player
0116

polish flag

Alexander Zverev

(German)
Tennis player
0117

german flag

Angelique Kerber

(German)
Tennis player
0116

german flag

Gaël Monfils

(French)
Tennis player
0114

french flag

Garbiñe Muguruza

Speaks Spanish with European and Venezuelan character

(Eur. Spanish)
Tennis player
0115

spanish flag

Known issue: the /g/ is perhaps too fricated

Hsieh Su-Wei

謝淑薇 Xiè shú wéi
(Mandarin, Taiwan)

Tennis player
0119

taiwanese flag

João Sousa

(Eur. Portuguese)
Tennis player
0119

portuguese flag
Name and languageOrig. lang.
recommended English

Nicolás Almagro

(Spanish)
Tennis player
0114

spanish flag

Novak Djokovic

Новак Ђоковић
(Serbian)

Tennis player
0116

serbian flag

Known issue: /v/ might be too strong

Philipp Kohlschreiber

(German)
Tennis player
0117

german flag

Roger Federer

(Swiss German)
Tennis player
0113

swiss flag

Victoria Azarenka

Speaks Russian. From Belarus

Виктория Азaренко
(Russian)

Tennis player
0116

belarussian flag

Known issue: the vowel sequence /ija/ in Victoria is misbalanced; the /r/ in Azarenka is not palatalised enough

Zheng Sai-Sai

鄭賽賽 Zhèng sài sài
(Mandarin, PRC)

Tennis player
0117

chinese flag

Notes

  • The recommended English pronunciation may be different from what you've heard on radio/television. This is because journalists mostly have no idea how to pronounce a foreign name, so they will "wing it" and eventually a "normal" pronunciation may become common, even if it is extremely different from the person's real name.
  • I don't speak most of these languages, but am using my phonetic and linguistic knowledge as best I can to help people.
  • There is sometimes difficulty in knowing which language or dialect to use when a person has changed countries or regions at some point in their life. It isn't always easy to find out what the person's preferred language is.
  • The slowed-down speech has some processing artefacts which were unavoidable. Hopefully it is still helpful for you.
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