Correct pronunciation of some English words and proper names, even our native names are indeed, a herculean task to many. Do you blame them? No! But then, though there are no hard rules about pronouncing English names, some of them are peculiar. These proper names are found in sporting activities, in the Holy books and in the society at large. There are as numerous as we often pronounce them wrongly. The secret of overcoming or conquering these rather difficult names to pronounce, some of them, laced with consonants and with or without vowels, rattles even the most learned but not of English descent, is to learn how to correctly write, spell and pronounce them.
Here are some of the proper names you come across every other day as listed by Ted Mukoro, may his soul rest in peace, that task our English pronunciation skill that should not be glossed over. Deliberate effort should be made to know them, especially so for the public speaker. Again, double check the names if in doubt and don’t fail to ask questions or use the right materials at your disposal to get it right. McGrath, Cockburn, Salisbury, St. John, Holburn, Willes, Leicester, Swanwick, Chisholm, Chiswick, Cholmondelay. The list is inexhaustible are some of, if you like call them the wonderful or magical names, that are not easy to pronounce, especially for someone who English is second language. Indeed, there are eye-popping.
Now get the pronunciation right. The proper names McGrath, Cockburn, Salisbury, St. John, Holburn, Willes, Leicester, Swanwick, Chisholm, Chiswick and Cholmondelay are correctly pronounced Macgraw, Co’burn, Solzb’ry, Sinjen, Ho’burn, Wilz, Lester (followers of English football should take note) Swonick, Chizim, and Chumly, in that order. Take another look at our exercise on pronunciation and you will agree with me that some, if not all, of these names need to be studied, digested and assimilated. It requires training to know them, like every other thing we achieve in life, knowledge is acquired and with constant practice we master the trade. Not only that the mispronunciation of English words or proper names as listed before makes us appear as educated illiterates, the local dialects or what you may call our native names are also worth giving the best treatment when verbalising them.
I cringed oftentimes I hear the mother tongue, I mean the native names being badly pronounced. It smacks of carelessness and I don’t care attitude displayed by some of our lectors or readers who are expected to be at home with the local names, except for those born far away from their home towns and regions. But then, training should do the magic. A typical newsroom either of the radio station or television house takes training in pronunciation of the local language seriously. They never compromise on this, that I know as a broadcast journalist who migrated from the print media. For example, we were told that a typical Igbo name that comes with the double “Nn” in pronouncing the name “Nnaemeka,” for instance, the “N” is never stressed or emphasized, as the case may be.
You will be correct to pronounce it “Naemeka” without stressing the “Nn” Nnaemeka. The first of the “Ns” is silent. Similarly, the name Nnamdi is given the same treatment. Better still, ask a friend or co-worker how names of a particular tribe or ethnic group are correctly pronounced. That would win you the trust and confidence of the people or listeners from that area, otherwise they would look at you as a total stranger and adversary who does not share a common ancestry nor values with them. Correct pronunciation of words whether in English or the local dialects cannot be over flogged. It remains the yardstick to measure who you are.
As the English masters and purists say, even if you are the most sophisticated and thorough bred in the written word but poor in verbalising the word, you are regarded as half baked and educated illiterate. So, if you are one of them it is never too late, find any suitable institute to work on your communication skill and you would be happy you did. You can download the ebooks; Reporting for Radio and Television: A Practical Guide, English for Communicators: Pitfalls and Blind Spots, The General Overseer-god in the Holy Temple.