Don’t let getting lost in translation get you just plain lost.
Sure you practice your bonjours and your arrivedercis before visiting a new country, but do you brush up on your Montjuïcs and your Mönckebergstrasses? If you’re an American tourist, the answer is likely to be non. Or nein. Or nej. Or no (turns out that one’s the same in several languages).
Babbel, the language learning app, and Generator, one of the largest hostel groups in Europe, teamed up to determine which places were the most mispronounced by American travelers. Generator asked 400 of their staff members, representing 43 different nationalities, in 10 major European cities which places they noticed were most frequently leaving tourists from the U.S. tongue-tied while asking for travel tips and directions.
Babbel compiled correct phonetic pronunciations for each of the 10 most mispronounced locales, which is not only helpful for sidestepping the white-hot embarrassment that washes over you when the concierge furrows their brow as you realize what you’ve said probably sounded like unadulterated gibberish. But it’s also helpful in ensuring that travelers get the most out of their visits.
“Fear of mispronunciations should never limit anyone’s experience of another culture.” —Ben Davies, with Babbel’s Didactics Team
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“Even the most experienced of travelers will remember biting their tongue instead of asking about a famous landmark, or preferring to avoid it entirely,” said Ben Davies, with Babbel’s Didactics Team. “Fear of mispronunciations should never limit anyone’s experience of another culture.”
Davies comments that by giving people the confidence that comes with “tackling a foreign language head-on,” Babbel is able to enrich peoples’ cultural experiences while traveling. “There’s definitely a sense of pride to be had sipping on a coffee in Trastevere having made your way there sounding like a true Roman.”
The most common places, perhaps unsurprisingly, included names that featured characters that appear rarely (if at all) in American English, such as eszetts, umlauts, and overrings. But even in predominantly English-speaking countries, Americans weren’t necessarily in the clear. Irish place names proved challenging for Americans unfamiliar with the Gaelic language. And even England, the homeland of the English language itself (for simplicity’s sake we’ll set aside its technically Germanic origin), visitors from the U.S. were still known to slip up.
So, if you’d like to impress the locals (and yourself) on your next jaunt to Europe, here are the correct, phonetic pronunciations for each of the places that have a tendency trip up visiting Americans.
Pronunciation: you-GORE-den or you-GORN (long and short version)
Dún Laoghaire, Dublin
Pronunciation: dunn leary
Oostelijke Eilanden, Amsterdam
Pronunciation: OHSTA-likka EYE-lahnden
Rue de Rochechouart, Paris
Pronunciation: ROO deh ROSHA-shwah