Beijing pronunciation: A cultural misunderstanding

If you’re watching the Olympics on NBC, you’re probably pronouncing China’s capital city as “Bay-zhing.”

But you’d be wrong. The proper pronunciation of Beijing is simply “Bay-jing.” Here’s the way to say it:

The Baltimore Sun—Michael Phelps’ hometown newspaper—reported today
that NBC announcers, including host Bob Costas, have been
mispronouncing the Olympics host city with the more exotic-sounding,
almost-French “zh” sound.

Fortunately, not everyone at NBC is wrong. Brian Williams, the anchor of Nightly News,
has been saying it correctly. According to the Sun story, Williams
asked everyone he could find in Beijing how to pronounce their city.
Everyone agreed that it is “Bay-jing.”

It may seem like a small or harmless error, but it does raise a larger question.

“If we can’t even pronounce Beijing correctly and consistently, how can
we ever hope to address deeper cross-cultural misunderstandings and
conflicts?” Chinese language expert Carsey Yee told the Associated Press.

Yee and John Weinstein—aka Two Chinese Characters—even posted that
video on YouTube that clearly (and entertainingly) explains the proper
Beijing pronunciation in English.

Yee, who lives in Canada, has helped Canadian broadcasters to say
Beijing correctly. He hasn’t been as successful with U.S. announcers.

“Mispronunciations are misinformation,” he said. “The casual attitude of the
networks toward this matter is, at best, negligent and, at worst,
bordering on disrespect for China and the Chinese.”

Katie from EF

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