By Susan Berkley
Former President George W. Bush was famous for his mispronunciations including, “misunderestimate,” “hispanically” and “subliminable.”
Hillary Clinton once slaughtered the name of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, calling him “Meh, um, Menedvadah — whatever,” during a debate.
But we professional voice talent are expected to pronounce words properly, especially proper names and geographic locations.
So let me ask you this.
Would you know how to say Anguilla? Bhutan? Nauru or Eritrea? No, they’re not exotic diseases. They’re the names of countries.
I had to read 28 of ‘em in a session for AT&T’s international phone service. The script included: Niue Island. St Pierre and Miquelon. Kyrgystan. Mayotte and Cocos Island.
Where the heck ARE all these places anyway? And who is making calls to Cocos Island? Sounds like the desert island Tom Hanks ended up on in the movie “Swept Away.” Okay, excuse me if you have relatives there. But these are real countries and like the state of Oregon, the natives get very sensitive when you mispronounce their homeland.
By the way, Cocos Island is pronounced KOH-kus. Anguilla is ang GWIL uh. Mayotte like “my yacht”. Niue is NEE oo ayh. St. Pierre and Miquelon is san PYER and MIH kuh lon. Krygstan is keer-ghi-STAHN. Bhutan is boo -TAHN and Eritrea is ER ih TREE uh.
Need pronunciation help? Here are my “Insider Secrets” for getting it right.
- The Merriam Webster website at www.m-w.comThis website includes sound files with pronunciations. It’s free. A male and female voice recorded all those words. How’s that for a voiceover gig! Many country names are on this site. But for those which are not, go to…
- www.google.comType in the name of the locale + pronunciation and you should get a sound file of the word.
- Ask a native.When voice talent Alan Sklar has to do an audio book with foreign pronunciations, he will call the consulate of that country and ask for help. He has even been known to get pronunciation help from native waiters in restaurants serving the country’s cuisine or flight attendants working for the country’s airline.
- Call the consulateI once did a narration where I had to pronounce Nelson Mandela’s name in his native language, Xhosa. This is a very difficult language for non-natives to pronounce because it contains click-like sounds. I called the South African consulate and a very nice lady worked with me on the phone until I got it right.
- Visit YouTube.YouTube is great for discovering how proper names should be pronounced. Just put the name you are looking for in the search box. For the correct pronunciation of Medvedev, I listened to newscasts and noticed how broadcasters pronounced the Russian president’s name.
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Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over actors. The Great Voice Company is an international leader in voice over training and in providing top quality voice over recordings in all languages to discerning businesses and marketers. For additional information visit www.greatvoice.com
Copyright 2012, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved. My Best Voice Over Pronunciation Secrets.