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).