How to pronounce Rodrigo?

March 9, 2009

Saturday Night Live years ago spoofed some white broadcast journalists eager to impress a new colleague, a Latino, played by Jimmy Smits. The white journalists switched to a Spanish accent for words with standard Anglicizations, such as "Nicaragua," "Honduras" and "Ortega." The political correctness turned absurd when the journalists applied their phony accents to "taco," "Los Angeles" and even "tornado." That sketch came to mind the other day as I voiced a news script that included the name Rodrigo, a tough one to pronounce for people like me who learned Spanish as a second language. The opening "R" requires a double trill. Combined with the "dr," it's a killer. So why bother to insert a non-English accent in the middle of an English script? Here's my thinking: It's best to Anglicize pronunciations of countries, U.S. cities, familiar foods and such. But I think it shows respect to pronounce names of people the way the individuals do, even if it's a language I don't speak -- Urdu, Quechua, Cantonese, etc. When people on their own Anglicize their names, I follow suit and stick to my Midwest brand of English. Not everyone in public radio subscribes to this approach. Some of my colleagues point out that switching briefly to a non-English accent may distract the listener from the story's content. They call that distraction unwarranted. So let's hear your thoughts. After taking this poll, please leave a comment that explains your vote (and if you don't mind, we'd love to know your ethnicity and first language). [poll id="18"]
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