Jonathon’s talked recently about the way his name is modified by Japanese speakers to make it a word they can more easily pronounce. This is probably why, while watching the World Cup game between Brazil and England this afternoon, I noticed the oddball way that the name ‘Ronaldo’ (who’s still an idiot, as far as I’m concerned) is rendered in Korean.
It’s doubly odd, because Han’gul (the Korean alphabet) is perfectly capable of rendering the name perfectly.

The right way to spell ronaldo in Korean...

which sounds like Ro – Nal – Do, would be the perfect way to go, I’d think. Sounds almost identical, bar the minor differences in the way the ‘r’ sound and the ‘o’ sounds are pronounced in Korea.
But noooo……
For some reason, the Korean spelling of his name on TV today (and all the other times I’ve seen it) looked like this :

... and the wrong way to spell ronaldo in Korean

This sounds like Ho – Na – Oo – Doo.
What the hell is up with that? I have no idea.
But this creative mangling of the sounds of names and other words imported from other languages drives me moderately batty sometimes, as one of the things I have to do in my work is (for example) to disabuse my students of the notion that the proper English pronunciation of ‘sports’ is ‘suh-PO-chuh’, which is the correct way to pronounce the word as it is written in Korean. This tends to be difficult, as they’ve seen and heard the word in all its Konglish glory every damn day of their lives for 20 years, on the evening news.
Don’t even get me started on ‘Fighting!’
Ah well. That’s what they pay me the big bucks for.


Join the conversation! 10 Comments

  1. The Korean transcription is fine, reflecting normal Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation.
    Initial ‘r’ in Brazilian Portuguese is indeed pronounced as English ‘h’ in ‘horse’. (The excellent movie Bye Bye Brazil does an extended riff on this fact that my Portuguese class found fall-down funny when we watched it.) Syllable-final ‘l’ tends to vocalize to an oo-ish sort of sound. And word-final ‘o’ is pronounced ‘oo’ as in ‘toot’.
    I’ll spare you the phonological history here. Just take my word for it; the Koreans know what they’re doing.

  2. hey stav– “HWAI TING!”

  3. I’m reminded of what I always thought was the Korean word for slippers: “Ssrebbah”. When I learned that it was actually an English word, I told my mom that it didn’t sound anything like it. As with a lot of things, she blamed it on the Japanese.

  4. Heh, blame it on the Japanese. Marvellous. The all-purpose scapegoat.
    One of my occasional pleasures is having my English “corrected” by Japanese friends.

  5. Cool – thanks Dorothy! I’m happy to know that it’s an accurate transliteration, actually. I didn’t realize that our English pronunciation was in fact incorrect.
    Ironic, no?

  6. Any time. What’s a U Blog linguistics professorship for? 🙂
    Just goes to show that sometimes it *helps* to be speaking a totally unrelated language. You start out with fewer notions about what stuff is supposed to sound like.
    I haven’t been listening to World Cup coverage much, and I haven’t heard a Brazil game at all. Are they really saying the name as if it were Spanish? Row-NAL-dow? What do they do with Ronaldinho (which should be something like how-naoo-JEEN-yoo)?

  7. I was going to play all multilingual, but Dorothea got in authoritatively: it’s good that British commentators are at least approximating the ‘doo’ sound-endings for Brazillian ‘-do’ names these days, though not the initial aspirant ‘r’s. So we end up with something that satisfies no-one. A bit like how General Pinochet ends up as French-sounding ‘Pee-no-shay’ rather than Spanish ‘Pi-no-SHETT’.

  8. Forgive me if this is in a FAQ somewhere, but I’ve been Googling and this old blog entry of yours is the best authority I’ve been able to find. (Sad, isn’t it?)
    Can you explain to me why the name of the South Korean pres is transliterated “Roh” but pronounced “Noh”?

  9. I asked one of my Korean colleagues at the university a while back, Prentiss, and he (if I recall correctly) said it was the North Korean style, and related to the hanja (chinese character) roots of the name.
    This may be apocryphal, though.

  10. Ronaldo is correctly pronounced “Ho-na-u-do” in Brazil. We have a weird accent – it’s like American English vs. British English.

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