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Foreign accents and (Mis)pronunciations

I have often noticed that people (especially in the news media but not exclusively) cannot pronounce foreign names correctly if their life depended on it! And sometimes it seems like they do it on purpose. I could be wrong here. But consider this. Do you really think that former US President Bush, or his then VP Dick Cheney did not know that the correct pronunciation is ‘Iraakh’, not ‘Eye-rack’? One may say that this is a trivial matter but I do not think that it is. If you do not bother to learn the correct way of pronouncing somebody’s name, what good are you at public relations? And is that all the importance you give to another culture? This matters a lot if one is in the spotlight or public eye all the time.

Like newsreaders, for instance… I just cannot stand it when those BBC newsreaders pronounce Anna Hazare like Anna Kournikova. I mean, c’mon now! Seriously? Anna Hazare is an Indian male activist… that’s right, MALE! His first name is pronounced like ‘un’ (as in unbelievable) + ‘na’. Why would a Gandhian figure have a female-sounding Western name? And don’t get me started on Gandhi! Or Ghandi or Gandi.. ugh! How hard is it to pronounce and spell correctly? And these are not even long names. By the way, I like how Obama correctly pronounces words like Iraq and Pakistan. He knows that it makes a difference, no matter how small, in foreign relations. And it is not just Westerners mispronouncing Eastern names. It is sometimes the other way round too. But western news media such as BBC and CNN simply have more exposure on TV and consequently are under greater public scrutiny.

The other thing that drives me up the wall is seeing, for example, people using an obviously fake and extra-heavy British accent to report for a channel like the BBC. I wonder if they are required to do this in order to keep their job… Can somebody confirm this? If that is the case, I think it is beyond ridiculous! Some newsreaders of course do seem like they are Easterners who were born and brought up in Britain. In such cases, I can at least sort of understand. But how does a reporter regularly covering for the BBC from Mumbai develop a thick British accent living in India? It is funny as heck but mostly just cringe worthy. One must not be required to change one’s cultural habits so drastically in order to do the job.

Anyway, this is something that has always bothered me and I debated in my mind whether to post this or not. But I do not mean any disrespect to anybody. I just find it funny that some people go out of their way to pronounce foreign names correctly and others just don’t seem to give a damn.