Pronunciation can be difficult, subjective and — in the ears of the listener — establish or undermine your credibility as a reporter. These tips from NPR correspondents with a wealth of international reporting experience can help you pronounce unfamiliar names like a seasoned linguist.
Get names on tape
Make sure to record your sources pronouncing their names, cities and any other monikers you might need to say. Carrie Kahn, NPR’s South America correspondent, recommends keeping these clips of pronunciations handy as you cut a story in your audio editing software.
Familiarize yourself with the language
How would a non-American reporter know to pronounce Arkansas differently from Kansas? Listening to and reading the local language is a great way to begin recognizing common names of people and places.
Trust your ears
Your eyes may be misleading! Ears can be better suited for distinguishing correct pronunciation, says NPR’s Mexico City correspondent Eyder Peralta. Listen to how a name is said and write down how it sounds, rather than just its exact spelling.
Rewrite your script
If you’re stuck on the pronunciation of a word, try rearranging your script so you can gear up to the difficult word. Alternatively, cut your tape so that your sources say the tricky pronunciations — and you don’t have to.
Double check and get it right
It’s never a bad idea to call sources and local experts to double check pronunciation. Ultimately, asking for help is always better than saying something wrong.