I’ve Been Pronouncing It Wrong This Whole Time!

As an auditory learner, I hear the words in my head as I read.  (I know that other people read differently, although I still can’t quite wrap my mind around how that works.)  Because I hear the words, I need to know how to pronounce them.  I read fantasy, so there are often unfamiliar names or terms in what I read.

Different authors take different approaches to this.  Some just let you pronounce names of people and places however you want, or leave you to figure it out on your own.  Some have the characters with tricky names explain it to others (Hermione does this in the fourth book, as does a character in one of Jacqueline Carey’s novels).  I particularly like it when the author has a character list or glossary in the back, complete with phonetic explanations.  (The back is better than the front, so there is less temptation to peek ahead.)  If the author isn’t nice enough to tell me how to pronounce a name, and especially if it has odd letters together, I just make something up.  Sometimes I’ll even just substitute another word – after about six or seven times of seeing the word, my brain usually just puts in the substitute with very little thought required.

I’m currently on the sixth book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  This is a massive series (it ended up at a total of 14 books) with lots of different countries and peoples, so the author was kind enough to include a glossary.  For some reason, I decided today to look up one of the countries (Cairhein) to see how it should be pronounced.  I’d been flipping back and forth between two possible pronunciations (CAR-hine and CARE-hine), and I guess I wanted to know which was correct.

It turns out neither of them was correct.  The right way, according to Jordan, is KEYE-ree-EHN.  I’ve been pronouncing the name of the country totally wrong for five books (not to mention when I read some of the series before) and now I have to re-adjust.  Every time I see it I have to correct myself mentally.  Hopefully it will end up like the substitutions, and it won’t take too long to fix.

If you write fantasy and make up names and terms, please be kind to your auditory learners and include a pronunciation guide!

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