Language Barriers when Traveling to Boquete, Panama

Blog by Terry Richmeier

We finally figured out some pronunciation issues that we have encounter while living and working at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast, Here in Boquete, Panama! For example: the only sound that the “I” makes is actually an “E” sound. There is no soft ‘eh’ sound for the “I” as it the word “it”. You would pronounce “it” as “EEET”. This has presented itself as a challenge for checking in guests that have Spanish Names such as “George’ is pronounced “Hor Hey” and spelled “Jorje”. But it doesn’t stop there. We have met wonderful guests from all over the world and we have, without a doubt, pronounced their names wrong. One story of our friend “Joyce” is below:

My name is pretty much unpronounceable in Spanish, especially Panamanian Spanish. First of all, I learned when my daughter Amy Kinnear was taking phonetics in college, that the letter “J”, as pronounced in English, is very difficult and unusual. Children and second language learners have a very hard time with the pronunciation of “J” in English. Also, the silent “e” at the end of a word is a tough one for many languages.

When we lived in Germany, a lot of people had difficulty in pronouncing my name. I was called a lot of strange things. Germans in the 1980’s, however, were used to hearing such names as “John” and other very English names, so most people were within some variation of my name.

It’s even worse here in Panama. Panamanian Spanish has a strong tendency to pronounce the second syllable of a word. Also, it seems that almost NO names are less than two syllables.

Thus, a name with an unpronounceable first letter, an unpronounced final letter that is pronounced in Spanish AND that doesn’t have the decency to have a second syllable to accent is just not a name that people can say.

We have a friend who is Panamanian, but who lived and worked in the US for over 30 years. His English is nearly perfect. However, when he said my name today, I realized that for those in the know, you could tell from how he said my name that he is not a native English speaker. The pronunciation was just off. It wasn’t some of the stranger variations of my name (yoi-CEE or something even stranger), but it wasn’t JOYCE.

I feel badly especially for my mother Judi Baker Nieman Correa, who used to tell me as a child that one thing she really liked about my name was that it was impossible to create a nick name from it. At least when I was little, she hated nick names and refused to let any of us have one.

Here, I have so many nick names that I can’t even count them all. Any word or collection of sounds that has an “oy” in the middle of it is fair game for being what someone might be calling me.

My name, Terry is fairly easy in Spanish and sounds quite lovely! It’s sound is more like Taary! I love it! On the other hand Manzar is not so simple for Spanish speaking. Manzar in Urdu sounds like Munzer. In English, most people pronounce it Man Zar like it’s spelled. And in Spanish it sounds like: Maanz zahr. So, when you are contacting Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast to find out more about our specials,  or to ask about our Boquete Overview Tour for relocation, or to find out about more about your reservations. Don’t be surprised if we hear something different than you pronounced or originally ask! Our staff and us will listen carefully to your questions and do the best we can to answer you! We love learning about different pronunciations from different parts of the world and we look forward to you bringing that to us!

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