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How to say: Javier Solana

Host Host | 12:00 UK time, Wednesday, 19 July 2006

A guide to words and names in the news, from Martha Figueroa-Clark of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

Today, Javier Solana, European Union foreign policy chief.

"The Pronunciation Unit recommends the pronunciation khav-YAIR sol-AA-nuh (-kh as in Scottish loch)

"People sometimes confuse the pronunciation of Spanish 'Javier' with the pronunciation of French words or names ending in -ier (such as Xavier, Olivier). The resulting pronunciation is a cross between the Spanish khav-YAIR and the French gzav-YAY. Since this individual is Spanish, the initial sound in 'Javier' is like the sound in Scottish 'loch' (not English 'lock') and the final syllable rhymes with 'hair' in an anglicised pronunciation."

(Click here for a guide to phonetic pronunciations (PDF).)


  • 1.
  • At 03:58 PM on 19 Jul 2006,
  • Laura wrote:

This is a great feature - would it be possible to have audio clips of the correct pronunciations of words to accompany each post?

  • 2.
  • At 02:54 AM on 20 Jul 2006,
  • Gerry Coogan wrote:

I find it mildly amusing that you recommend pronouncing '-kh' as in Scottish 'loch'. How nice it would be if BBC presenters would take the trouble to pronounce 'loch' properly before concerning themselves with Spanish matters. Incidentally, while on the subject of Scottish words, please note that 'dour' rhymes with 'tour' and not with 'sour'.

  • 3.
  • At 11:28 AM on 20 Jul 2006,
  • Blade In Forerunner wrote:

An entry to help people pronounce Javier? Hmmm. Surely, the ones that can't could not decipher a blog. Or anything in print, for that matter.

Thanks for the educational tip, though

Trying to explain kh to English speakers is quite frustrating. The sound exists in Russian (as the letter X), and learners' guides usually just say "the ch in Scottish Loch or German Bach". The thing is, most people think loch = "lock", and back = "bark".

  • 5.
  • At 04:57 PM on 20 Jul 2006,
  • Javier wrote:

Hellsbells (pronounced with a 'k' before the 'h' presumably) I've been getting my name all wrong for the past 40 years.

Are you sure though? Lots of English nun's might beg to disagree, the ones named after St Francis of Javier (spelt Xabier in Navarre, I think). You don't want to get the wrong side of a Jesuit or their namesake.

Many a name said what is in the name then I read the magazine that was so hard hitting on the name that I remember. The name is beautiful. Try sending the mail by a small mistake??. The pronunciations is like XAVIAR TSALANA

  • 7.
  • At 12:47 PM on 22 Jul 2006,
  • cordyline wrote:

I am not helped by being told that to pronounce the beginning ( J ) I should refer to how the scots pronounce the end ( ch). not the most apt example. best to rely on how the spanish pronounce J ie as H as in Havea and Havier and Hulio Iglesias. but not of course as the portugese do eg Jose Mourinho is just that, Jose and not Hose. this does lead to the line about the two spanish firefighters one called Hose and the other called Hose B. sorry about that.


"...without YOU ever telling me." should read "...without YOUR (possessive form) ever telling me."

So distracting )and detracting from the intended message) are grammatical errors!

Javier is pronounced HAB-EAR, I can assure you.

I live in Spain, I have several friends with the name, my land lord has the name, and so does one of my English students.

Often abbreviated to Habbey (Like Abbey).

Xabier is pronounced SAB-EAR, often abbreviated to Sabbey.

I feel that the BBC pronunciation unit has worked a bit to hard of this one...

Existence and justification spring to mind.

No comment of the surname. =8¬)

  • 10.
  • At 01:10 AM on 24 Jul 2006,
  • Eric Dickens wrote:

If people can get so worked up about the name of one foreigner, the BBC is in need of a handbook (with sound samples, if necessary) of the "nearest reasonable pronunciation" of the very many foreign names crowding our airwaves.

The "j" of Javier is nearer the Scottish than the German (which is softer). The "v" is neither a "b" nor a "v", but a bilabial. But newsreaders under stress won't care; they just want a simple guideline, not a linguistic lecture.

If Brits can have a whole discussion about one name, it rather suggests that such a handbook should be put together soon using simple phonetics.

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