Today I’m afraid it’s another rant about people’s ignorance of how to pronounce words and names in foreign languages.
The other day the announcer on Classic FM told us that we were about to hear Wagner’s aria ˈliːbztɒd. In German Liebestod (`love death’) is pronounced ˈliːbəstoːt. German long vowels in spelling situations where they would be short in English cause particular difficulty to English learners: you hear der Mond moːnt (moon) mispronounced as mɔnd. Final obstruent devoicing, too, is a thing a lot of people don’t know about. A reasonable anglicization might ignore it. For the Wagner aria I’d be happy in English with ˈliːbəztəʊd.
Our radio and TV announcers do try. The sports commentators are used to the idea that the letter j can stand for a palatal approximant rather than dʒ — they have no difficulty with the tennis player Jelena Janković. But then they overdo it by referring to Azerbaijan as ˌæzəbaɪˈjɑːn. (In Azeri that’s Azərbaycan, with the usual Turkish spelling c = dʒ.)
They know that Polish sz can be equated to English ʃ. They make a brave attempt at Bydgoszcz. But then they turn Szeged, Hungarian ˈsɛɡɛd, into ˈʃeɡed. Just as Spanish spelling conventions don’t apply in Italian or vice versa, so it is with Polish and Hungarian.
Chinese Pinyin continues to baffle them. Most of the sports commentators know that Chinese x is to be pronounced like English ʃ (actually it’s more ɕ or even sj). But then Xie comes out as ʃaɪ instead of ʃe(ɪ). You can’t win.
In today’s blog entry there is no font coding at all for the phonetic symbols, just colour. See how it works for you. (If necessary, play around with your browser’s font settings, and try different browsers.)