Coming across an op-ed from here, I came to the conclusion that most of the time, Burmese names are not done justice.
The op-ed states this:
Bush continued making us proud by thinking and saying that he was addressing an OPEC summit instead of the APEC summit. He thanked the Austrian army for providing security. Yes, of course, it was the Australians who provided the security in Australia not the Austrians. He got lost on stage and couldn’t find his way off and couldn’t pronounce the name of Myanmar’s democratic opposition leader; all grade A Bush material for late night comics everywhere.
Assuming that the “democratic opposition leader” is Aung San Suu Kyi, I’ve heard her name mispronounced numerous times. Firstly, there are news broadcasts or documentaries that refer to her as “ONG SAN SU CHEE,” using syllables that don’t even exist in Burmese. To understand the eccentric way the Burmese like to romanize would take a skilled linguist.
“Aung” is roughly pronounced “Oun” (rhymes with “sound,” without the ‘d’ and ‘s’). Most Burmese people with the name ‘Aung’ spell it misleadingly with ‘ng’ because in Burmese, it is spelled with a silent ‘ng.’ “San” is pronounced close enough, but to be more exact, it has to be lengthened (so more “Saan” rather than “San”.) “Suu,” unlike the misleading lengthening of the vowel, is short and abrupt. So it’s more of a a snappy and quick “Su” rather than a long-voweled “Suu.” And “Kyi” is the one most people have trouble with. The pronunciation of “Kyi” does not even exist in English, so a “Chee” is the closest approximation. But for those who are familiar with Spanish or French, the ‘k’s in those languages are softened. But the “Kyi” is a combination of the soft ‘k’ and a ‘y’ sound, which is hard to explain.
- “Aung” rhymes with “sound” (without the ‘s’ and ‘d’);
- “San” rhymes with “sun,” except with a long vowel.
- “Su” ends abruptly, like French ‘zut,’ or less closely, to English “loot” (replace the ‘t’ with an abrupt stop)
- “Kyi” is a softened “Chee.” Like the French or Spanish ‘k.’
I do not understand why many news articles that include pronunciation keys for Aung San Suu Kyi’s name, like so: “democratic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (ONG-SAN-SUU-CHEE)” are even put there if they bear little resemblance to the name’s pronunciation. I guess it’s sort of like simplifying her name’s pronunciation, but unfortunately that has become standard name pronunciation in most media outlets like CNN.
But considering even Burma’s other name “Myanmar” is butchered by the English-speaking world (for starters, Myanmar is two syllables, not three), I guess these pronunciation variants are supposed to occur naturally. By the way, for those who use “Myanmar,” please say “Myan-ma” or “Myan-mar” instead of “My-an-mar.”