How does the Beeb do it?

April 17, 2007

They just announced the name of the shooter at Virginia Tech. I’m listening to the BBC Newshour on WHYY. The name was first mentioned in a WHYY segment, and the announcer struggled to pronounce it. Not 1 minute later, the BBC guy came on and said it perfectly fluently. By fluently I mean without a struggle or pause. I know nothing about Korean, so I can’t tell you if it was correct or not. Judging by their pronunciation of South Asian and Middle Eastern names, though, I’m guessing that it was probably perfect. I was always impressed by the fact that they seemed to put an effort into getting these things right. But this seems to suggest that either all BBC anchors go through some sort of massive linguistic training, or they have advisors on hand to respond to these things immediately, and the anchors are skilled (trained) enough to get it right after hearing it over an earpiece from a native speaker. They might have experts, or they might just consult their normal staff for someone who speaks the language. If it’s the latter, then it strikes me as shameful that American news organizations don’t make the same sort of effort.

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