How do you say 'van Gaal' and other Premier League names?

Louis van Gaal Image copyright Getty Images

As we count down the minutes until Premier League football returns to fill the void left by the end of the World Cup, here is a guide to a few of the new names, and one familiar one.

Stressed syllables shown in upper case, -uh denotes a weak vowel as "a" in "sofa" or "ago".

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal: loo-EE vun KHAAL (-u as in bun, -kh as in Scottish loch)

Stoke striker Bojan Krkić: BOY-an KUR-kitch (-oy as in boy, -ur as in fur, -tch as in catch)

Newcastle striker Facundo Ferreyra: fack-OON-doh ferr-AY-ruh (-oo as in moon, -ay as in day)

West Bromwich Albion striker Brown Ideye: id-AY-ay (-ay as in day)

Newcastle defender Daryl Janmaat: DURR-il YUN-maat (-u as in cut, -y as in yes, -aa as in father)

Newcastle midfielder Rémy Cabella: ray-MEE kab-el-AA (-ay as in day, -aa as in father)

QPR defender Mauricio Isla: mow-REE-si-oh EE-sluh (-ow as in now, -s as in sit, -ee as in street)

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino: mow-REE-si-oh potch-et-EE-noh (-ow as in now, -s as in sit, -tch as in catch)

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Remy Cabella, or ray-MEE kab-el-AA as it should be pronounced

The international nature of sport and the audience following it seldom makes researching and recommending sports names as straightforward as simply recommending the "original" pronunciation in the native language.

Other considerations are the individual's own pronunciation, standard v possible regional variation, comparison of sound systems of the native language with British English and any existing anglicisations used by fellow professionals, their management, broadcasters and fans.

But what happens when a name does not originate from the country of the individual's birth? When the pronunciation in the "original" language and the usual pronunciation in the individual's native language are different? Rémy Cabella is French. Bojan Krkić is from Spain, despite the Serbian name. Mauricio Pochettino, who has a family name that Italian speakers might be excused for thinking is Italian, is a Spanish speaker from Argentina.

In the case of Pochettino, names of Italian origin are prevalent in Argentina. So how do Spanish speakers treat Italian names? The answer is that there is no uniform way and we must be mindful of idiosyncrasies. The Italian pronunciation of this name is pock-et-EE-noh (-ck as in kick) but his own pronunciation is potch-et-EE-noh (-tch as in catch).

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Southampton and now Spurs fans have wrestled with the idiosyncrasies of pronouncing "Mauricio Pochettino"

However, both pronunciations are used by Spanish speakers in Argentina. In some cases, people do not have fidelity to what is perceived to be the "original" pronunciation or a pronunciation that is expected in their native language - after all, it is their name to pronounce how they wish.

An excellent example of this is Australian F1 driver, Daniel Ricciardo. Italian speakers are often surprised to learn that his own pronunciation is rick-AR-doh (-ck as in kick). (The Italian pronunciation is closer to ritch-AR-doh, -tch as in catch).

And multilinguals often pronounce their names differently in their native languages, which leads to the question - which one should we recommend?

This is actually not just limited to multilinguals. People sometimes find themselves speaking a great deal in a non-native language for professional or social reasons - especially so in the arena of professional sport. Athletes might be born in Kenya or Fiji or Serbia, train in Florida or Spain or Russia and compete in Beijing and Toronto and Doha.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The name "Bojan Krkic" will soon be echoing around the Britannia Stadium, Stoke supporters hope

Tennis players are a particularly good example of this: Sabine Lisicki, a German tennis player (with a Polish family name), pronounces her own name suh-BEEN liz-ICK-i in English. Similarly, Maria Sharapova refers to herself in English as sharr-uh-POH-vuh which has a different stress pattern from the original Russian, which is closer to sharr-AP-uh-vuh. When individuals have these anglicisations, we recommend these as it reflects the individual's pronunciation in English.

If an anglicisation is widespread, then we sometimes recommend them for sports names even when we cannot find evidence that this is the individual's own or preferred use. And while it's possible to question the wisdom of anglicisations, we also have to consider the question of intelligibility in broadcasts.

If fans and the club refer to an athlete or the manager by a particularly prevalent anglicisation, say for Éric Cantona or Dirk Kuyt or Pelé, trying to recommend a pronunciation closer to the original language (ay-REEK kaa(ng)-ton-AA (-aa(ng) as in French blanc) or DEERK KOEYT (-eer as in deer, -oey as in French fauteuil) or pay-LAY) may sound like an affectation and even distract or confuse members of the audience.

Where anglicisations are thin on the ground, our approach is to reflect the individual's own pronunciation if we can find evidence of it and if not, to reflect a pronunciation as close as possible to the original language within the sound system of British English.

However, their time in the Premiership may lead to various anglicisations popping up, used by the club, the fans and the media. The Dutch pronunciation of new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal's name is closer to vun KHAAL (-u as in bun, -kh as in Sc. loch, -aa as in father).

During his tenure as Dutch national team manager at the World Cup, we observed some nascent anglicisations cropping up among commentators and the public. First, almost uniformly in British English, the first part of the family name, "van", was anglicised as van (-a as in man).

We heard van GAAL (-g as in get), probably influenced by the spelling and van HAAL (-h as in hot), possibly an anglicisation to get around the -kh as in Scottish loch sound, which is available in some accents of English (various accents of Scottish, Welsh and Irish English) but not in others.

The latter is preferred by the Manchester United press office. As to what the fans will settle on, only time will tell.

The Pronunciation Unit is part of the BBC's Information and Archives department. Its service is available exclusively to BBC broadcasters and programme-makers. The pronunciations discussed are represented using BBC text spelling.

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