LanguageLog has a post about how the World Tennis Association’s (WTA) official pronunciation guide for Russian women tennis players is mostly incorrect. In commenting on the post LanguageHat comments:

The kicker is that the WTA stands by its pronunciation guide” and suggests that many players might adopt Americanized pronunciations when they speak with foreign reporters.” A shame if true; it’s not really any harder to say sha-RAH-pava than Sha-ra-POH-vuh,” and why wouldn’t you want your name said correctly?

It is, of course, silly of the WTA to continue to stick by an incorrect guide, but I think the issue here is not really about pronunciation as it is transcription. Linguists know how to produce an accurate transcription (whether using the IPA or otherwise), most non-linguists do not. The WTA allowed the tennis players themselves to submit the pronunciations. My guess is that the errors are less from their desire to Americanize the pronunciation than it is simply ignorance of the best way to transcribe the pronunciation of their own name.

In Taiwan I was surprised how many people misspelled the phonetics of their own names, even on official documents. These were not necessarily issues relating to various pronunciations of the same character, but simply insensitivity to the existence of a final nasal velar. So lin” 林[lin] and ling” 凌 [liɤŋ] would both be written by many people as lin,” even if they themselves pronounced their name ling” 凌 [liɤŋ]. This is partially because Taiwan has such a mess of different phonetic systems, and most people were not taught any involving the use of the Latin alphabet until recently. I quickly learned never to trust native speaker’s own transcriptions.

It is worth mentioning that there are a couple of items on Barbara Partee’s corrected list which might be acceptable Americanizations” since they involve phonological distinctions not present in American English. I know my wife, Shashwati, often has to make such adjustments because English lacks the aspirated dental sound found in her name, and so she must pronounce the t,” [t] as opposed to dh” [not sure on the IPA for this] in order not to have to repeat herself numerous times. It takes considerable practice to learn to make sounds not in your own language’s phonological repertoire, but I think it is fair to expect newscasters to at least make reasonable approximations.