IInternational tournaments expose us to new players, teams and styles of football. Euro 2020 gave us the chance to see North Macedonia and Finland on such a big stage for the first time. However, what can be exciting for football fans can be difficult for commentators, who must master new pronunciations. Derek rae, the voice of Fifa video games, believes that broadcasters do not always pass the test.
As ESPN’s leading Bundesliga commentator and speaker of five languages, Rae takes pride in his pronunciation of player names. âWe would all want our names pronounced correctly if we lived in a different culture,â he says. âIf people are making that effort for you, it’s a huge sign of respect. It is respect for a language and a culture. I realize that not everyone is a linguist and not everyone can do it, but we should try more than we are.
Football is more and more global and there is so much more of it on TV now, so it’s understandable that some pronunciation errors have crept into the coverage, but mistakes sometimes reveal our national attitude. England can be turned inward, especially in the aftermath of Brexit, and many people think that learning other languages ââis not worth our time and effort because ‘everyone speaks English anyway. “.
âAs broadcast journalists we should be better than this,â says Rae. âI always use the analogy that for a journalist writing it would be a crime to just lazily spell out someone’s name and make it up because people will always know who you are talking about. You wouldn’t do that. You would write the name as it is written. It’s the same with pronunciations.
Rae doesn’t think the problem is specifically an English problem, but a bane to all English speaking countries. âIt’s an Anglo thing. I don’t mean an English thing. I mean something in English. If someone’s native language is English – whether in the UK, US, or Australia – there seems to be a divine right to say a name in the easiest way to pronounce it. one person.
Portuguese names are often read as if they were Spanish, but there are some major differences. Bruno Fernandes is a good example. Rae has received a lot of attention for the way he pronounces Fernandes with a harsh “des” sound at the end, some Fifa fans suggesting that, because the pronunciation is unfamiliar to their ears, it must be incorrect.
“I made his name long before he was at Manchester United,” says Rae. âWhat I do with each new name is try to speak to a native speaker and, if possible, the player himself and make sure I do my research on it. I know enough Portuguese to know that this name is in Portugal is âFernandsh.â Nobody told me anything until he joined Manchester United and then all of a sudden I was told I was saying it wrong. My rule is always I want let the player and his family listen to him and say, ‘Ah, there is a commentator who is right.’ “
Many Italian names are mispronounced. Gianluigi is often pronounced as “Jeeanluigi” when in reality it is a harsher “Jan” sound. The same rule applies to Napoli full-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo; it’s “Jov” rather than “Jeeov”. Other transgressions include a hard “ch” for Chiellini or Chiesa, when a simple “k” will suffice, and a hard “g” for Lorenzo Insigne.
Eastern European countries present their own challenges as many letters can be completely misleading to an English reader. For example, the second part of the team name ÅKS ÅÃ³dÅº is pronounced âwuchâ. Wojciech Szczesny has heard several variations of his name, but the correct pronunciation is Voy-chekh Sh-chen-sni.
The Ukrainian fans have a very specific complaint, which is not about the pronunciation, but the way commentators often call their team âUkraineâ. The word Ukraine is believed to come from the Slavic term for border regions. Thus, by calling the country “Ukraine”, commentators are unwittingly recalling a time before Ukraine became independent.
Barack Obama was offended when he made the same mistake when he was president in 2014. âUkraine is a country,â William Taylor, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, told the time. âUkraine is what the Russians called this part of the country in Soviet times. Now that it’s a recognized country, nation and state, it’s just Ukraine. It is incorrect to speak of “Ukraine” even though many people do. As all linguists who watch football know only too well, just because something is common does not mean that it is correct.