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How to Say: Euro 2012 venues and names

13:20 UK time, Friday, 8 June 2012

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

It's that time again when European nations compete to be crowned winners of the Uefa Euro football championship.

In the midst of all the excitement, it's the commentator's unenviable task to confidently pronounce 22 foreign players' names in a fast-paced 90-minute broadcast.

Sixteen nations are competing, and with so many names in a squad and the fact that there are at least two competing languages in each match, how would you fare?

As always, the Pronunciation Unit's advice is anglicised so that it is pronounceable by broadcasters and intelligible to audiences. We use BBC Text Spelling to render pronunciations in writing (in all cases, stressed syllables are shown in upper case and -uh represents 'a' in ago/sofa - see link to full BBC Text Spelling guide below).

The pronunciation advice below generally lists the unit's recommendations first but also includes mention of other attested English pronunciations.

In general, the Pronunciation Unit's policy on place names is as follows: where an established anglicisation exists, that is what we recommend. In cases like Paris, where the English and French form of the geographical place name are spelt identically, broadcasters are advised to use the established anglicised form (eg, PARR-iss not parr-EE).

In cases where there is an established English name for a foreign place name, eg Munich or Moscow (pronounced as MYOO-nick and MOSS-koh respectively), rather than the German and Russian forms (München or Moskva), we advise broadcasters to adopt the English form of the name.

In the case of little-known place names, we recommend a pronunciation which is as close to the native pronunciation as possible, within the constraints of the English sound system.

The first match takes place in Warsaw - this is the English name for the Polish place name known as Warszawa. While the pronunciation of Warsaw in English is straightforward, WOR-saw (-or as in corn, -aw as in law), Warszawa is pronounced var-SHAV-uh (-v as in vet, -sh as in shop) in Polish.

The other Polish venues are Krakow, Wroclaw and Gdansk. Krakow is the English form of the name, pronounced KRACK-off (-f as in fit) in English, although KRACK-ow (-ow as in now) is also sometimes heard and KRACK-oh (-oh as in no) and KRACK-ov are also attested in British English pronunciation dictionaries. The Polish form is Kraków, pronounced closer to KRACK-oof (-oo as in boot, -f as in fit).

Wroclaw is pronounced VROTS-waff (-v as in vet, -ts as in bits, -w as in wit, -f as in fit) in Polish and English, although as with Krakow, there is more than one possible pronunciation in use more generally among English speakers, including VROTS-laav, VROTS-lav, VROTS-laaf, VROTS-laff and VROTS-waaf.

Gdansk (Gdańsk in Polish) is pronounced gdansk (-gd as in 'lagged') but because the 'gd' consonant cluster can be difficult for native English speakers to pronounce at the beginning of a word, it can be further anglicised as guh-DANSK. The pronunciations guh-DYNSK (-y as in sky) and DANSK are also listed as possible anglicisations in specialist English pronouncing dictionaries. In Polish, the acute accent over the 'ń' before the fricative 's'-sound means that the preceding vowel is nasalised in Polish and sounds closer to gdy(ng)sk (-y as in sky, -(ng) after a vowel indicates that the preceding vowel is nasalised).

Ukraine's venues, by contrast, are arguably less of a challenge for English speakers:

The established anglicisation of Kiev is KEE-eff (-ee as in meet, -e as in get), although KEE-ev (-v as in vet) is also used in English. Kharkiv, another venue in Ukraine, is pronounced KHAR-kif (-kh as in Sc. loch, -f as in fit).

Some of the players' names are perhaps more challenging, particularly as the orthography and transliterations do not always match the expected pronunciations.

When it comes to foreign names, we make every effort to reflect native pronunciations as closely as possible in our advice to broadcasters.

That said, the pronunciation of sports names is exceptional, given the international nature of the sporting world and especially the fact that sports professionals are often signed to high-profile foreign clubs, we find that clubs and professional sporting bodies tend to use a higher degree of anglicisation. These anglicised pronunciations are then adopted by fellow professionals and fans which, over time, cause certain pronunciations to become entrenched.

An example of this is the Brazilian player Ronaldinho. In this country, he is known as as ron-uhl-DEEN-yoh but in Brazilian Portuguese his name is pronounced closer to khon-ow-JEEN-yoo (-kh as in Sc. loch, -o as in not, -ow as in now, -j as in Jack, -y as in yes, -oo as in boot).

The pronunciation ron-uhl-DEEN-yoh is so well-established that using a pronunciation which more closely reflects the Brazilian Portuguese above would very likely cause confusion to listeners. Not only that, but it would probably be deemed an affectation by many English speakers, in much the same way that pronouncing Paris as parr-EE might raise a few eyebrows.

In some cases, sports personalities themselves pronounce their names in a non-native way. A case in point is Poland's Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczęsny. In Polish, his name is pronounced VOY-chekh sh-CHE(NG)-sni (-oy as in boy, -ch as in church, -e as in get, -kh as in Sc. loch, -sh-ch as in pushchair, -(ng) indicates that the preceding vowel is nasalised). However, when we researched the club's pronunciation of his name, we were told that they pronounced it VOY-check SHEZH-ni (-sh as in shop, -zh as 's' in measure).

Understandably, some people feel very strongly about the fact that we should recommend the native-like pronunciation but what if there was evidence that a football player used a certain anglicisation of his/her own name and preferred this to an attempted native-like pronunciation that they did not identify themselves with?

Ahead of the Euro opening matches between Poland and Greece, and Russia and the Czech Republic, here is a selection of pronunciations for some of the players' names:

Vyacheslav Malafeev, pronounced vyatch-uh-SLAAF muh-luh-FYAY-yuhf (-vy as in view, -uh as 'a' in sofa, -fy as in few, -ay as in day, -y as in yes)

Pavel Pogrebnyak, pronounced PAV-uhl puh-gruhb-NYACK (-a as in hat, -uh as 'a' in sofa, -ny as in manual)

Jan Laštůvka, pronounced YAN LASH-toof-kuh (-y as in yes, -a as in hat, -sh as in shop, -oo as in boot)

Zdeněk Pospěch, pronounced ZDEN-yeck POSS-pyekh (-y as in yes, -o as in loss, -py as in pew, -kh as in Sc. loch)

Stelios Malezas, pronounced STEL-i-oss mal-ez-ASS (-e as in get, -al as in pal, -note final syllable stress)

Panagiotis Kone, pronounced pan-uh-YOT-iss kon-AY (-y as in yes, -ay as in day, -note final syllable stress)

As the tournament progresses, we will include further pronunciation guidance for players' names.

You can download the BBC Pronunciation Unit's guide to text spelling.

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