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What do Nutella, IKEA and Volkswagen all have in common?

You’ve been pronouncing them wrong your whole life.

At London Translations we’re experts at helping businesses tackle the problem of miscommunication. It’s what we do.

But sometimes it’s not the businesses that get it wrong, it’s the customer.

A recent infographic published on ‘Made by Oomph’ lists the most commonly mispronounced brand names. Incorrect pronunciation is so common it actually gets regular airtime. In this 2015 article the Business Insider explains, amongst others, the difference between Stell-ah-ar-twahs and Steh-lah-are-twa.

Most brands that are pronounced incorrectly are victims of the language barrier between the producers of the brand and its international audience.

So the next time you find yourself shopping in the world’s best known flatpack furniture outlet, sipping Belgian beer or eating chocolate nut spread straight from the tub, remember that there’s room for translation expertise in everything you do.

Here are a few tips on perfecting the translation on some of the best known foreign brands (as well as a bit of trivia just for fun).

Renault: France

Ren-olt Incorrect
Ren-o Correct

The French automobile manufacturer is named after the three brothers who founded the company, Louis, Marcel and Fernand. In French, some letters such as d and t are soft unless they are followed by an e. While we’re here, the same applies for Peugeot.

Hoegaarden: Belgium

Ho-garden Incorrect
Hoo-garden Correct

This famous Belgian brewery was found in 1445 in the small village of Hoegaarden. The vast majority of British beer drinkers pronounce it Ho-Garden, however, the correct Flemish pronunciation is similar to Hoo-garden.

Hyundai: Korea

High-un-die Incorrect
Hyun-day Correct

According to the BBC, High-un-die is an anglicisation of Hyundai, the original Korean pronunciation is closer to Hyun-day. In the US it’s pronounced Hun-day and in Spain the cars are referred to as Han-die.

Hyundai even poked fun at the common mispronunciation of their name in a commercial at the 2010 Super Bowl. They produced an ad that featured angry competitors crying ‘hyun-day’ alongside the tagline: “Win one little award and suddenly everyone gets your name right.”

Volkswagen: Germany

Volks-wa-gen Incorrect
Folks-var-gun Correct

Both the v and the w in the old VW we know and love doesn’t actually sound like a v and w. The v in German can sound more like an f in English, whereas the w sounds more like a v. Confusing, isn’t it? Especially when you ought to be concentrating on your driving.

Fage: Greece

Fahj Incorrect
Fah-yeh Correct

Fage Yoghurt is now based in Luxembourg. However the company began life in Greece before leaving the country in 2012. The word Fage derives from the Greek verb ‘to eat’. As such it’s not pronounced Fage or Fahj but ‘Fah-yeh’.

Nutella: Italy

Nuh-tell-ah Incorrect
New-tell-ah Correct

Nutella is commonly mispronounced nuh-tell-ah by English consumers as it assumed the ‘Nut’ derives from the creams prominent ingredient, hazelnuts. When Nutella published the correct pronunciation on their website, fans were so shocked they took to social media to vent their outrage.

IKEA : Sweden

Eye-kee-ah Incorrect
Ih-kee-ah Correct

They say ignorance is bliss, so sorry, but you’ll never be able to go back to the way things were before you found out you’ve been pronouncing IKEA wrong your entire life. In Sweden, they pronounce it Ih-kee-ah rather than the anglicised Eye-Kee-Ah.

Fortunately, there’s good news. The accommodating Swedes seem happy to accept this mispronunciation in their American and English stores, even using our butchered version in advertisements. So we can still use Eye-Kee-Ah and pretend that all this never happened.

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