‘brushetta’ or ‘brusketta’ – pronunciation problems

10-Jan-2013

Today’s posting is about a topic that both language learners and non-language learners alike will have experienced.

What do you do when you have to pronounce foreign words and you’re not really sure how to do it!

It’s mainly food and drink that causes this predicament. The correct pronounciation of certain words has become the norm, such as ‘tortilla’ (the double l pronounced as a y, torteeya) and ‘jalapeño’ (halapaynyo). A lot of people argue that you should only pronounce words as closely to the correct pronunciation as possible, but only using phonemes that are used in your own native language. For example, in English we don’t have the same nasal sounds so common in French, so to pronounce ‘croissant’ we would just drop the final t. But this makes me wonder why the accepted pronunciation of other foreign words is so different to the correct native pronunciation. Take ‘bruschetta’, for example. In England, you only ever hear people say ‘brushetta’, when the correct Italian pronunciation should be closer to ‘brusketta’. It’s not difficult to say ‘brusketta’: it doesn’t involve using a sound we don’t know. We still pronounce the g in ‘tagliatelle’ and the ls in ‘paella’. Even I do, and I hate it because I know I’m pronouncing these words ‘incorrectly’. So the question is: why do I do it!

I think the answer is that people are worried about sounding pretentious or posh (see this entire thread about people worrying what to do in this situation). Because it has become accepted usage to pronounce it ‘brushetta’ instead of ‘brusketta’, you sound a bit pretentious if you pronounce it correctly. And even more so if you try to argue your case! Which is weird, because if it were anything else, being correct would be okay; if someone corrected you about the currency in a certain country or the dates of a war, and they were respectively a financial worker or a historian, it would be okay for them to correct you. So why are people so resistant to changing the way they pronounce foreign words?

It’s a very personal topic, and I don’t think these things will ever change, because people don’t want others to think they’re arrogant or pretentious. It could make a really nice classroom discussion, especially if you have students in your class who come from countries that has a very well-known cuisine, such as Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Indian or Greek… the list goes on! Or, if you just want to read another nice article about this topic, I like this one . Now all this talk about food has made me hungry – I hope bruschetta is on the lunch menu..!

Becca

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