The eyes of the world have been on the dramatic and inspiring mine rescue in Chile.
It has been very gratifying to see the BBC deploying Spanish-speaking reporters able to interview the miners and rescuers in Spanish while translating the questions and answers into English as they do so. Let’s hope that this not only does something to rescue us from our reputation of being unable to speak foreign languages but also demonstrates to today’s young people the value of learning languages.
Not all reporters and not all TV channels managed to get the names right. The name of the second man out was Sepúlveda, Spanish seˈpulβeða, properly anglicized as sɪˈpʊlvɪdə; but I kept hearing him referred to as ˌsepl̩ˈveɪdə. The name Acuña, Spanish aˈkuɲa, got its tilde ignored as it became English əˈkuːnə, and Esteban, Spanish esˈteβan, ehˈteβan, was misstressed as ˈestəbæn.
There is also an issue with the name of the country. The traditional English pronunciation of Chile is ˈtʃɪli, homophonous with chilly and chil(l)i (pepper). That was the only pronunciation known to Daniel Jones for BrE and to Kenyon and Knott (1944) for AmE. But in Spanish it’s ˈtʃile, and in recent years the revised anglicization ˈtʃɪleɪ has come increasingly into use, at least in AmE. That was how President Obama pronounced it in his message of support.
And what about the corresponding adjective? Traditionally Chilean has always been ˈtʃɪliən. But now some people have started saying tʃɪˈleɪən. I’m not sure why this should be: no other words in -ean are treated in that way (think of Shakespearean and c(a)esarean on the one hand, European on the other hand, and variable Caribbean on both). Spanish chileño offers no support.