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  1. #1
    GeneD is offline Senior Member
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    pronunciation of j in foreign names

    There is one thing concerning English pronunciation I totally ignored till this very moment: pronunciation of foreign (for English speakers) names. It's always a mystery to me as to how you do it. For instance, there is a Spanish name Juan the first letter of which (according to the Spanish rules of reading) is pronounced as h. And I've heard it pronounced by an Englishman as Huan and written as Juan. After that I thought for some time that native English speakers just emulate a foreign pronunciation. At the same time it would mean that all native speakers should be polyglots which sounds impossible; moreover, there is a stereotype of the English as ultimately unwilling to learn foreign languages (I don't know to what extent it's true, though). Hence my confusion. Either you are polyglots and know how the foreign names you use are pronounced, or you have a rule of thumb on how to do this, or something else...

    I realise that the field the topic might cover is extremely wide, so maybe it's not a bad idea to confine it a bit. Since the examples I gave are about the letter j, my questions will be:

    How do you pronounce the German Johann? Do you use the sound ʤ as in John or is it j as in use?
    Do you pronounce the Spanish Juan as Huan?
    Are you all polyglots?
    If it's not too much trouble to you, could you please correct any errors I might have made in this post?

  2. #2
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: pronunciation of j in foreign names

    Americans tend to respect native pronunciations more than Brits, but this only goes so far. Juan usually becomes "wahn". Johan is always "yoh-hahn". Wolfgang is usually "wulf-gang". The respect fades rapidly as the language in question becomes less familiar.

    Americans are far more likely to be monolingual than polyglot, with the exception that many areas have large numbers of Hispanophones. In those areas some degree of English-Spanish bilingualism is common. In California, Spanish place names are very common. The Anglo population generally pronounces them with at least a nod to their native pronunciation: San Jose is sann hoh-zay, La Jolla is luh hoya.

    We're not so good here in Ohio. The town of Rio Grande is reye-oh grand. Bellefontaine is bell fountain. Versailles is vur sales.
    Last edited by GoesStation; 23-Feb-2021 at 15:37.
    I am not a teacher.

  3. #3
    jutfrank's Avatar
    jutfrank is offline VIP Member
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    Re: pronunciation of j in foreign names

    Quote Originally Posted by GeneD View Post
    How do you pronounce the German Johann? Do you use the sound ʤ as in John or is it j as in use?
    As in use.

    Do you pronounce the Spanish Juan as Huan?
    I'd say most of us generally try to approximate the Spanish phoneme, which doesn't exist in standard English. To varying degrees of both effort and success, however.

    Are you all polyglots?
    Da.

  4. #4
    jutfrank's Avatar
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    Re: pronunciation of j in foreign names

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Americans tend to respect native pronunciations more than Brits, but this only goes so far.
    Well, I suppose it's very hard to generalise either way, but it's always occurred to me (as a Spanish speaker) how ironic it is that Americans seem to pronounce Spanish words less accurately than Brits. I suspect though that my impression may be a bias arising from the fact that there is a greater influence of American Spanish in the US (Mexican, Caribbean, Central American, etc.) compared to a greater influence of Peninsular Spanish (which is how I speak) in Europe.
    Last edited by jutfrank; 23-Feb-2021 at 16:19.

  5. #5
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: pronunciation of j in foreign names

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    Americans tend to respect native pronunciations more than Brits, but this only goes so far. Juan usually becomes "wahn". Johan is always "yoh-hahn". Wolfgang is usually "wulf-gang". The respect fades rapidly as the language in question becomes less familiar.

    Americans are far more likely to be monolingual than polyglot, with the exception that many areas have large numbers of Hispanophones. In those areas some degree of English-Spanish bilingualism is common. In California, Spanish place names are very common. The Anglo population generally pronounces them with at least a nod to their native pronunciation: San Jose is sann hoh-zay, La Jolla is luh hoya.

    We're not so good here in Ohio. The town of Rio Grande is reye-oh grand. Bellefontaine is bell fountain. Versailles is vur sales.
    All true.

    And yes, there are plenty of exceptions. More:

    - Amarillo rhymes with Brillo.
    - Havre de Grace is HAV-er-dee-GRAYSS.
    - Cairo, Missouri, is KAY-ro.
    - Berlin, Connecticut, is BER-lin.
    - Vienna, Maine, rhymes with Diana.
    - Calais, Maine, rymes with Dallas.

    Volkswagen has two pronunciations here. Some use the German-sounding Folksvagen, some don't. I use the VW cop-out.

    But yes, in general, we pronounce a Spanish J like an H and a German or Scandinavian J like a Y.

    And for some reason, there are a lot of women here in Maine named Wanita.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  6. #6
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: pronunciation of j in foreign names

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Well, I suppose it's very hard to generalise either way, but it's always occurred to me (as a Spanish speaker) how ironic it is that Americans seem to pronounce Spanish words less accurately than Brits. I suspect though that my impression may be a bias arising from the fact that there is a greater influence of American Spanish in the US (Mexican, Caribbean, Central American, etc.) compared to a greater influence of Peninsular Spanish (which is how I speak) in Europe.
    You might be on to something. Ever since I moved to Maine, it's bemused me that American visitors who have spent their lives saying taco and Paco can't figure out how to pronounce Saco.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  7. #7
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: pronunciation of j in foreign names

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Well, I suppose it's very hard to generalise either way, but it's always occurred to me (as a Spanish speaker) how ironic it is that Americans seem to pronounce Spanish words less accurately than Brits.
    I'm really thinking more of British pronunciations of French words. They're often hilariously inaccurate to my ears. Rule One is that you should always emphasize the first syllable. Given that French doesn't have word stress, the American habit of emphasizing the final syllable isn't necessarily less wrong, but it tends to be a bit closer to French.
    I am not a teacher.

  8. #8
    jutfrank's Avatar
    jutfrank is offline VIP Member
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    Re: pronunciation of j in foreign names

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    I'm really thinking more of British pronunciations of French words.
    That's possible, yes. Do you have any specific words in mind that we could compare?

    I immediately think of Notre Dame, which I hear Americans pronouncing as Noh-tra Day-m. Brits tend to say Not-ra Dah-m, which is a bit closer.

    I hope my phonetics are understandable.

  9. #9
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: pronunciation of j in foreign names

    Gateau, Calais.
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  10. #10
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: pronunciation of j in foreign names

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    That's possible, yes. Do you have any specific words in mind that we could compare?

    I immediately think of Notre Dame, which I hear Americans pronouncing as Noh-tra Day-m. Brits tend to say Not-ra Dah-m, which is a bit closer.

    I hope my phonetics are understandable.
    Yeah, but come on. You all say pop-yay ma-shay!

    And by the way, the proper pronunciation of that school is no-der DAYM.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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