October 4th, 2011
The Top Excuses For Not Pronouncing Spanish Names

If this hasn’t happened to you, I’d be surprised, but with my two accents it sure seems to happen a lot to me. You know, you meet someone and you pronounce your name the way it’s pronounced — in my case Sara (in Spanish), not Sarah (in English) — and people somehow, or another find a way to pronounce your name wrong. The hardest part for me to swallow, though, is that somehow you’re still supposed to pronounce their names correctly.

Let’s take a look at the top excuses for this behavior:

1.) I can’t roll my Rs.

Which is funny because the vast majority of Spanish words only have one R in them.

2.) It’s so hard to say.

Man, I was reading this book from The New York Times best seller list earlier this year and literally had to look up at least two words per page in the dictionary! English is a huge language with words from all kinds of other languages mixed in! It’s hard to say, too!

3.) It so pretty when you say it.


4.) Isn’t that how you say it in English?

If my name were “Sarah” (or whatever your personal name is) I would have probably said that, right? Do I get to call you José if your name is Joe? Can I call you María if you tell me your name is Mary? The answer is no, right?

5.) Why do you have to have such a hard name to pronounce, don’t you have a nickname?

Sigh. If I had a nickname I’d probably have introduced myself that way, right?

In case you’ve noticed, there’s a general theme here, and it’s that people don’t want  to pronounce things that make them uncomfortable. I personally strive to pronounce others’ names correctly, and ask to be corrected. Obviously not the case anywhere. I think the real reason that we’re looking at here is much simpler, and pretty much covers all the bases.

6.) I don’t want to pronounce your name.

Now that is starting to make sense…

4 thoughts on “The Top Excuses For Not Pronouncing Spanish Names

  1. English is a very literal-sounding language.  English speakers sound out each letter and syllable.  Ever taught Spanish-speakers how to speak English?  Their most common mistake is that they don’t “open” their mouths.  They don’t round their mouths on the w’s or r’s (nor do they straighten their tongues more when saying “r”).  The don’t curve the tongue on the L’s.  They rarely close their mouths on “stopping” syllables like the “p” in the word “stop” Why?  because they aren’t taught to pronounce those letters that way.  It’s a heck of a lot easier to learn how to round and reform your tongue and lip movements than it is to actually digress to not making those movements at all.  An English speaker has a hard time not rounding the mouth on the Spanish R and thrusting the tongue up – even if it’s not rolled.  I, personally, never learned how to pronounce the letter r in my native language: english – despite years of speech therapy.  So, my amazing wonderful boyfriend doesn’t hold it against me that I can’t pronounce his name in spanish either.  Perhaps, to many ppl make up excuses.  On the other hand, digressing from sounding everything out to making it flow loosely takes a lot of practice and patience from the other who sees one actually trying.

  2. My name is Jenny.  I get called Yeni, LLeni….I don’t care.  I appreciate that folks remember my name. From time to time the hospital or police (English speakers) will call me and ask for Yeni.  I know that a Spanish speaker has given them my name and number.  But, why is it that New York is Nueva York?  Or North Carolina, Norte Carolina? Even on Spanish language channels.  But when I go to Nueva Laredo I say Nueva Laredo and when I go to Agua Fria, Puebla, Mexico,  it is Agua Fria. 

    Your name is beautiful but I am sure that I don’t pronounce Sara the way you do, or perhaps even the way you want.  My Spanish is good, not that good.  I try.  I get over my embarrassment at mispronouncing names.  I hope that other people can too.  I make mistakes in Spanish grammar and pronunciation all the time, but I try. Still, my friend Eliseo still laughs because even after 10 years I just can’t get it right.  I try.  

    When people in my community call for an interpreter and ask for dona Yeni I am always happy to help.

  3. Pingback: Ñ: Put A Mustache On Your N | NewsTaco

  4. I was always taught to pronounce a person’s name by the way they introduced themselves. Remember, Spanish is the language of Cervantes. More important, we speak Spanish because we can.

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