How to Pronounce Names

Опубликовал Admin
3-07-2021, 02:30
Have you had a few too many awkward incidents in which you pronounce someone else's name completely wrong? Are you unsure how to remedy your inability to figure it out? No fear--so long as you follow the steps outlined in this article, you'll soon be on your way to becoming an expert in the field of name pronunciation!

Written Clues

  1. Examine the name. If you've seen it but not heard it, oftentimes just sounding it out in your head first can help a lot with your pronunciation. Work with each syllable in turn. Unless it's Welsh.
    • Think about other words you already know that look similar to the name. For example, the letters q-u-i in French sound like the word key in English. So just as the word "quiche" is pronounced keysh, the name "Quitterie" would be pronounced key-tree.
    • Sometimes city names can get your mind going. Think of ones like San Jose, Guadalajara, Lille, Versailles, and Guangzhou.
  2. Consider the origin. Does it look French? Spanish? Chinese? Know that every language has a unique alphabet and set of sounds associated with it, so any prior knowledge of languages will assist you in your pronunciation.
    • Spanish has a very consistent alphabet, unlike English. The vowels are always pronounced "ah," "eh," "ee," "oh," and "oo."
    • French has a fairly consistent alphabet as well, but it's a bit more tricky. If the name ends in a consonant, don't pronounce it. "Robert" becomes row-bear. And a name like Michelle? It's mee-shell, not meh-shell.
    • Mandarin Chinese is trickier still. The "Q" is pronounced ch, "X" is pronounced sh, and "Z" is pronounced dr. "Xiaojin Zhu" is shiao-jin drew.
    • If you're a bit confused about "ei" and "ie" in German, opt for the second letter's name. "Steinbeck" has a vowel like "I"--the second letter. "Auf Wiedersehen" has a vowel like "E"--the second letter.
  3. Take into account accent marks and other diacritics. They can significantly change the way a name is pronounced.
    • In Spanish, you want to put the most emphasis on the syllable that has the accent; e.g., María should be pronounced ma-REE-uh.
    • Unfortunately, French doesn't follow the same rules. The sounds "è" and "é" are two different sounds. Though they are very similar, they are similar to eh (the sound in red) and ay, respectively. Examples of this include Renée (ruh-nay), André (on-dray), Honoré (ah-nor-ay), and Helène (heh-lehne).
    • The most frequent character used with a cedilla is the "ç"; the cedilla makes it soft (ss, not kuh).
  4. Look for diacritics indicating tone. Though this requires a familiarity with the language, some tones are quite logical.
    • A mark going down (`) generally indicates a falling tone; a mark going up, rising.
    • A mark going up and down (or down and up) is just that--your tone should follow.

Other Resources

  1. Ask around. This can be as sneaky as you're capable of. "Hey, who's that guy we're working with on the etymology project again?" Maybe your friends don't know either!
    • Don't be afraid to ask the person yourself. Odds are if you don't know, people butcher their name all the time. Say to him or her, "What's the native way of pronouncing your name?" to get them to pronounce it how they would back home. They'll love that you're making an effort.
  2. Say it over and over. Once you have it, don't let it go. As Dale Carnegie said, "Remember that a person's name to that person is the sweetest and most important sound in any language."
    • Repeat it in your head seven times. You'll be less likely to forget the correct way to say it when you have it logged in your memory. If the pronunciation surprises you, think of a rhyme to ease recall.
  3. Go online. Because the world has become such a global village, there are quite a few websites out there dedicated to just this.
    • Pronouncenames, and Inogoloare all useful tools to circumvent the wonder.


  • You can always do more research on the pronunciations of less prevalent accent marks, using books or websites like this for Spanish words and this for French.
  • If you've just met someone and already forgotten how to pronounce their name, you can cover up your lapse in memory by introducing them to someone else you know. Say something like, "Hey, I want you to meet my friend Judy," and hopefully the person whose name you've forgotten will repeat it for Judy's sake. This approach works best at parties and other large social gatherings, so be cautious about using it in groups of a dozen people or less.
  • Don't worry too much about mispronouncing a name that you thought you knew. Apologize, then shrug it off and make up for it by pronouncing the name correctly every time thereafter.
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