Tuesday, March 08, 2011

How Do You Pronounce That Name??

My friend Sandy tells about a recent meeting when the Kenyans and a few Americans were working on their new hymnal --

The first part of our meeting with the Tanzanians was spent in casual conversation, getting to know each other a bit. I was puzzled by one of their pronunciations, so tried to ask about it. The conversation went something like this:

Let me ask you about the pronunciation of the word "Tanzania." In Swahili the second-last syllable typically receives the accent, so I would have expected you to say TanzaNIa, but you are saying TanZAnia. Why is that?

Both Tanzanians and the Kenyan all jumped to say, "Of course we say TanzaNIa! It is TanzaNIa!!! When someone says TanZAnia, it is the quickest way to see he is a foreigner. He doesn't know the correct pronunciation."

I was truly dumbfounded, having heard them say TanZAnia at least a dozen times. All I could think was, "Then you are foreigners, because that's how you're saying it." But how could I say that? I'd be accusing them either of not knowing how to pronounce the name of their own country, or of not hearing what was coming out of their mouths. So I just kept quiet.

A short time later, one of them used "TanZAnian" in a sentence. Kantor Resch, who had been sitting quietly beside me and listening to the whole conversation, smiled and said quietly to me, "He said TanZAnian, didn't he?"

To which Masuki replied: "Of course I did. I'm speaking in English."



    Bwahahahahahaha. I love Africa. Love, love, love.

  2. I think it's just so cool how they were willing to say the name of their own country wrong so that they could be understood by dumb Americans. It seems to me to be motivated by patience and kindness, y'know, like we might talk to a 2-yr-old.