You Too Can Sound Like a Radio Host: Or How Not to Humiliate Yourself in Front of Your Class
The Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation may be well and good as a desk reference, but the Voice of America (VOA) Pronunciation Guide does them one better: Online MP3 files for checking the pronunciation of the names of foreign leaders and public figures in the news. So, if like me you are checking to be sure your pronunciation of Vojislav Seselj passes muster, you can check it here. The pronunciation of Recep Tayyip Erdogan (whose name seems to be pronounced in a variety of ways in the U.S. media this week) is here. The VOA guide is not exclusively for foreign names — I spotted Joe Biden and Timothy Geithner on this handy short list. It doesn’t extend, however, to sports figures; Novak Djokovic doesn’t make the cut. The methodology behind the VOA pronunciation guide is simple and a presents some good rules of thumb for names not on the list:
VOA English language broadcasters should try to pronounce a person’s name as that person pronounces it. The goal is to sound intelligent, informed, and natural. Therefore, we should not overly stress certain sounds which are peculiar to specific foreign languages. In other words, don’t try to sound as if you are fluent in a language if you are not.
A few minutes with this handy tool and you too can sound like a well-seasoned diplomat!