NY Times article on international tennis names

This New York Times article might be of interest to some of you NEs out there—about how announcers and officials at international tennis tournaments deal with pronouncing foreign names:

Getting Names Right? Harder Than It Sounds


June 29, 2012 2:24 AM

Oh, fun article! I definitely feel for them. I'm not a tennis fan, but I'm a hockey nut and love the Olympics, so I get my share of sympathy/cringing/whatever-the-noun-for-feeling-impressed-is when listening to the announcers attempt the myriad of foreign names.

There is a player on the Montreal Canadiens named Alexei Emelin, pronounced Yemelin. When he was first signed, the media all listed him as Yemelin because that is the French transliteration from the Russian - I believe that his first jerseys said Yemelin, too. But it gets complicated, because apparently the typical transliteration into English is Emelin, and that's what he had on his Team Russia jersey, so the name on his Canadiens jersey got switched. And all that from a relatively simple foreign name.

Hearing how American announcers often murder French names, I wonder if they are doing as bad a job with the European names, but since I don't speak those languages, I can't know for sure.

June 29, 2012 4:16 PM

"Hearing how American announcers often murder French names, I wonder if they are doing as bad a job with the European names."

They certainly seldom get Hungarian names anywhere near recognizable. At the Olympics, you can tell which announcers are working from the same pronunciation guides. There tend to be at least two or three available, with apparently wildly variable advice.

This doesn't come up much in tennis, but it's definitely an issue at the Olympics: what to do with "wrong-order" names? At the last Games, I noticed that on the official website and such, Hungarian and Japanese athletes were listed with surname last ("Western" order), while Chinese and Korean names were listed surname first. I wondered at the reason for the inconsistency: is it just that the Japanese and Hungarians are more "westernized" than the Chinese and Koreans? They ought to pick an order and stick with it, instead of adding to the confusion... (I don't remember the name or even the sport, but last time there was a Japanese athlete who was variously referred to as "Mr. GivenName" and "Mr. Surname" -- and it was ironically the less-enlightened announcers who were getting it right, because of the switched order on some of the officially-available materials; the more-enlightened announcers, assuming that what they had been given was the person's correct name _in Japanese_, were switching it around.)

June 29, 2012 11:49 PM

That's really funny!

But I did not know that Hungarian was a family-name-first place, too. I thought that it was basically an Asian naming format. Interesting!