You Say Bogota, I Say Bogotá—And That's A Beautiful Thing

Listeners wonder about the policy on pronouncing non-English names and places.
Weekend Edition Sunday host Lulu Garcia-Navarro conducts a phone interview at the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Source: Allison Shelley

What better time to tackle the issue of NPR's policy around on-air pronunciation of non-English words than when the devastating fire in France's Notre Dame Cathedral has been in the news?

Some accents have been better than others, but across the board on NPR I've heard only a French pronunciation: "No-treh Daahm," instead of the Anglicized "Noter Dame." Not that a single listener has objected when hearing it pronounced more or less as the locals in France would say it. And that's telling.

The public editor's office hears regularly from listeners who have questions or objections when it comes to how NPR's on-air staff pronounce non-English-origin names and places. Often these letters are about mispronunciation, an issue the newsroom takes seriously, in my experience. On occasion, multiple emails will fly before the newsroom lands on a pronunciation that everyone can agree on.

To a casual listener, NPR's pronunciations could seem arbitrary. In the same breath as they say "No-treh Daahm," NPR's on-air folks talk about where it's located — in "PAIR-iss" (not "Pah-REE"). That's the most obvious

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