Pronouncing a person’s name is important, it is their identity and how people interact with them. It’s important to P. A. announcers to get names right. Recently, internationally known P. A. announcer Mike Markham put this thoughts on the topic on electronic paper and speaks to many great reasons we are so adamant we get
Pronouncing a person’s name is important, it is their identity and how people interact with them. It’s important to P. A. announcers to get names right. Recently, internationally known P. A. announcer Mike Markham put this thoughts on the topic on electronic paper and speaks to many great reasons we are so adamant we get names right.
“I’ve had some frustrating situations regarding name pronunciations,” Markham said. “This is arguably the most important thing we do.”
In situations in which we have names of players we’re unsure of, it’s always best to ask the player him or herself simply because we don’t know if the SID, Media Relations staff, coach, or team representative took the time to do it them self.
“If it’s a foreign player or you really aren’t sure, ask the player yourself if at all possible, repeat it to them, get approval and write it phonetically,” Markham said. “Use pronunciation guides provide by teams as guides not absolutes – especially for the home team.”
The home team is going to be under more scrutiny because there will be more fans from the home team. However, he notes the most important part of getting pronunciations, write it phonetically. Some announcers don’t properly prepare and may not arrive early enough to follow Markham’s advice.
“Just ask the player before the game. People assume and butcher pronunciations and never ask the person themselves – this includes coaches and SIDs,” Markham said. “Just because a coach or SID tells you something it isn’t necessarily correct. The player himself is the only source that matters. It’s not always practical to speak to the player but if you can it only takes seconds.”
There are times that all announcers have had to “show-and-go”, but a professional announcer makes sure to take the time to arrive early enough to go over names and other pronunciations as necessary. Some will even start preparation long before the game, or even game day by previewing rosters and noting players who may have to be checked. They’ll look at where the player is from to get an idea of how the name would be pronounced.
Apps for the computer, smart phone, tablets, etc. have been developed to help announcers, but the old-fashioned way of doing things is still the most preferred method. Apps like Forvo are available to help with pronunciations, but nothing beats the real thing and asking the player.
“Don’t use an English or American version of a foreign name unless the person himself is okay with it. If ‘Martin’ is from Spain and his mother calls him ‘mar-TEEN’, don’t call him “MAR-tin” because you’re in America unless that’s okay with him,” Markham said.
As Markham can attest to getting simple names wrong, it’s frustrating when it happens often. Some can say it’s due to laziness, inattentiveness, or just don’t feel the issue is that important. It’s not when you’re referring to someone’s name.
“I’ve had some frustrating situations lately with people insisting that I call people things that they don’t necessarily call themselves,” Markham said. “I also sympathize because people screw my name up and it’s a super simple one……Mike.”
Markham has had the honor of announcing in the Olympics and on international stages for many years. His experience internationally is something we should all take note of as he has been on the world’s biggest stage. His last piece of advice is something we should all take.
“Google Translate can also be useful but again use it as a guide and not a substitute for hard info from the source. It’s pretty good on very common languages like Spanish, Portuguese and French. Other stuff may not be accurate,” Markham said. “At the end of the day you should only call someone what they want to be called.”
Yes, only call someone what they want to be called. Check first names, check last names, ask for nicknames. If a player is listed as Abigail, does she want to be Abi, Gail, Gabby, or another variant? If a player is listed as Michael, do they want to be announced as Mike, Mikey, or Mick? Ask. Always ask. Nobody will ever get upset at you for asking the proper pronunciation of their name.
Thank you Mike Markham for the advice and keep up the great work!