Whether you’re travelling or talking about different places and cultures around the world, there’s bound to be somewhere you don’t quite know how to pronounce.
When it comes to mispronunciation, it’s important for people to make an effort to learn about and respect the languages and cultures of others in our increasingly diverse and interconnected world.
Commonly mispronounced places:
- Cannes, France
Correct pronunciation: KAN or KAN-uh
Incorrect pronunciation: CON or CONZ or CON-es
To sound even more native, add the French “-uh” at the end of “Kan” (Kan-uh).
- River Thames, London, England
Correct pronunciation: TEMZ
Incorrect pronunciation: THAYMZ
Historians believe that King George I of Great Britain, who was the first to rule from a royal house of German origin, was unable to make the “th” sound in “Thames” and instead pronounced it as “Temmes.” No one was willing to correct the king, so it has been called the River “Temz” ever since.
- Yosemite National Park, USA
Correct pronunciation: yoh-SEH-muh-dee or yoh-SEH-muh-tee
Incorrect pronunciation: YOH-se-might
Start with “yoh,” like yo-yo. Then put the stress on “seh” as if you’re beginning the word “set.” Finally, end with “muh” from “mother” and then “tee” from “teeth.” When you put it all together, you get “yoh-SEH-muh-tee.”
- Louvre Museum, Paris, France
Correct pronunciation: LOO-vruh
Incorrect pronunciation: LOOV or LOO-vray or LOO-ver
In the English language, there aren’t many words with the letter combination “vre” in them. This is likely why many speakers aren’t sure how to linguistically approach a name such as “Louvre.”
- Versailles, France
Correct pronunciation: vair-SIGH
Incorrect pronunciation: ver-SALES or ver-SAY-les
Much like the pronunciation of Cannes, French speakers take an axe to the “es” in Versailles. But they don’t stop there, the double “L”s at the end aren’t pronounced either.
- Ibiza, Spain
Correct pronunciation: ee-BEE-tha
Incorrect pronunciation: ih-BEE-za or eye-BEE-tha
As a popular tourist destination known for its vibrant nightlife, Ibiza has welcomed visitors from around the world, and they all have their own ways of pronouncing this Spanish island.
- Dubai, UAE
Correct pronunciation: doo-BAY
Incorrect pronunciation: doo-BYE
If you looked at this one with utter disbelief, don’t worry. It’s widely accepted that the English speaker’s version of Dubai is pronounced “doo-bye”, but if you want to get technical, the classic Arabic version of Dubai replaces the “bye” sound with “bay”.
- Maldives, Indonesia
Correct pronunciation: MULL-deevz
Incorrect pronunciation: mal-DIVES or MAL-deevz
Yes, you can go diving in the clear blue waters of the Maldives, but you should not pronounce this south Asian country as the “mal-DIVES.”
- Seoul, South Korea
Correct pronunciation: SUH-ool or SOLE
Incorrect pronunciation: SEE-ole or see-ULE
One of the most accepted ways for English speakers to pronounce the capital of South Korea, Seoul, is “SOLE” (like the bottom of your shoe). However, a more accurate pronunciation to South Koreans is achieved through two distinct syllables that are clearly separated: “SUH-ool.”
- Worcester, England
Correct pronunciation: WUSS-tuh or WUSS-ter
Incorrect pronunciation: WAR-chest-er or WAR-cess-ter
Although it would phonetically make sense to break this word down as “WAR-chest-er” or “WAR-cess-ter,” British speakers have decidedly done away with the “rce” portion of the name. Moreover, they drop the final “R” at the end.