Pronunciation of Dutch names vs anglo-Australian naming

Gosh, Dutch names are hard to pronounce correctly. I just finished a business phone call to South Africa, and the person I was after had the surname of “Van Wyk”. My British/Australian upbringing tells me to pronounce that as “Van Wick”. So I did, and was met with complete and utter bafflement as to who I was after. On realising that I was a) not making a crank call b) calling from overseas c) after a person who did work there, the kindly secretary gave me a brief pronunciation lesson, and it’s pronounced “Van Veek”, as far as I could tell. The secretary also assured me that they probably couldn’t pronounce Australian names properly either… but I didn’t have to heart to tell them that actually no, they’d probably be fine, as anglo-Australians use surnames fairly sparingly, and often like to name people with very short words (example first names/nicknames: “Sharon”, “Kylie”, “Gazza”, “Mark”), and to name places in a relatively unimaginative fashion (e.g. Sydney has a harbour, so it’s called “Sydney Harbour”; there’s a bridge over that water, so it’s called the “Sydney Harbour Bridge”; there’s a tunnel under that water, so it’s called the “Sydney Harbour Tunnel”; the other side of the water is to the north, so it’s called the “North Shore”; the suburbs to the east/south/west of the city are called the eastern/southern/western suburbs; and so on and so forth). Personally, I quite like the shortness and simplicity of this style of naming, but as a consequence, I suspect it results in many Aussie names being comparatively easy to pronounce. Of course, Aboriginal place names are harder, but these generally use phonetic spelling.

1 thought on “Pronunciation of Dutch names vs anglo-Australian naming

  1. except, of course, that the eastern suburbs are to the south, the northern suburbs are to the east, the northern beaches are east of the north shore….

    At least dutch/german/afrikaans all have consistent translations between pronunciation and spelling – “w” is always pronounced as we’d (usually) pronounce “v”, etc. Just look at the “ough” mess in english, or the wikipedia entry for “ghoti” to see how terrible english is..

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