In preparing to call the US-France women's game on Thursday, I worked really hard to learn the correct pronunciations for the French players' names. I watched the women's French Cup final, I watched France's friendly against Brazil, and I watched one of their qualifying matches against Austria. I also watched their behind-the-scenes YouTube videos from the 2013 European Championship. I read a lot of French articles and tweets about the French women's team, known as Les Bleues (feminine version of Les Bleus, as the men's team is known). By far the most French studying I had done since my junior year of college.
I also consulted an 'expert,' namely my sister, who studied abroad in Switzerland and is excellent at a number of different languages.
This preparation was essential, because I discovered several instances in which the pronunciation of a specific name differed from what I understood the French rule to be. For instance, looking at the last name Le Sommer, I expected it to be pronounced, "luh soh-may" (as parler is pronounced, "par-lay"). Yet the French announcers definitely pronounced Sommer as they would sommaire - that is, pronouncing, albeit softly, the 'r' at the end of it. My sister confirmed that, for unknown reasons, that particular name uses the 'r' at the end. Some other fun ones for which I prepared: Bouhaddi, Anaïg, Delannoy, Houara, Soyer, Bussaglia, Hamraoui, Thomis, Crammer, Gaëtane, Laëtitia.
Still, you never know how this will go over with people for whom this is their native tongue. Especially when it comes to the French, known to be proud of their language and its pronunciation. So I was immensely gratified to see find these Twitter comments by French viewers watching the online broadcast:
Le commentateur de #USAFRA est parfait il connaît aussi bien l'équipe américaine que l'EDF et fait l'effort de bien prononcer leur noms 👌🇫🇷Which means - "The commentator of USA vs. France is perfect. He knows equally well the American team and the French team and makes the effort to pronounce their names well."
— Karoline (@Caroline_97791) June 20, 2014
Au moins ce soir le commentateur prononce bien le nom des #Bleues #Foot #USA-#FRA #USAFRAWhich means - "At least tonight the commentator pronounces well the name of Les Bleues." (Unclear whether the poster meant my pronunciation of "Les Bleues" or my pronunciation of the players representing Les Bleues, but I'll take whatever compliments en français I can get my hands on.
— Alexandre Bur (@AlexandreBur) June 20, 2014
Since I'm bragging, this was also a nice twitter comment to see - I only read the positive feedback, after all!
Some of the best WoSo commentating in a while. Thanks, @jtyardley! #USAvFRA #USWNTDon't worry; I'm not resting on these laurels by any means. In between World Cup games this weekend, it's back to studying for my Tuesday night Open Cup game between the Philadelphia Union and New York Cosmos. I'm really excited to see how Cosmos do on the road against an MLS team with more motivation than the Red Bulls had back on June 14.
— Sarah Smith (@SMSmith53) June 20, 2014