The Importance of Getting It Right
Recently I interviewed the Member of Parliament for Klottey Korle Constituency in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Her name is Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings. It appears that many people often pronounce her first name wrongly because the first thing she said after I introduced her was “I’m so glad you said my name right!”
Apparently there are as many versions of her name as there are journalists who have interviewed her. How come? And is it a big deal if you fail to pronounce someone’s name correctly?
People often don’t take it kindly when their names are mispronounced. I have actually heard an interviewer maul a guest’s name and then say, “Sorry if I didn’t get your name right. It’s quite a hard one.”
I actually heard this when a southern African ambassador was being introduced by a Ghanaian speaker: “I’m not even going to try and say your last name!” Can you imagine what the VIP was thinking after an introduction like this?
Remember that people take their names seriously. Your name is a marker of your identity. It is what makes you individual and unique and special. Nobody wants their identity altered by having their names mispronounced. How do you prevent the problem of mispronunciation from happening?
There is a simple way to get around this very avoidable occurrence. Just ask. Simple as that. Simply ask the person for the correct pronunciation of their name. Here are a few ways you can get that information. Just ask:
When they say their name, look at them closely. Watch how their move their lips and listen to how they pronounce their own name. Then repeat the name aloud and ask “Is that the correct way?” or “Is that right?” If they say no, wait for the correct pronunciation and repeat it. Once you get it right, write the name down the way you heard it being said correctly by the owner of the name.
Note that some names are spelled differently from how they sound. Here are a few examples from Ghana:
KARIKARI is pronounced KAKARI
BOAKYE is pronounced BUACHI
AGYEMAN is pronounced AJIMAN
DZIFA is pronounced JEEFA
My default position is to ask a speaker what the correct pronunciation of their name is. Then I write it down the way I hear it so that when the time comes to introduce them, I get it right. There is no sweeter sound than the sound of a person’s own name. You don’t want to alienate them from the onset just because you failed to pronounce their name correctly.