Afghanistan again


Angshu, in a comment on my ‘Afghanistan’ post, has been critical of my reasoning for recommending the English pronunciation of Afghanistan even to Mishal Husain, who uses a variant that may or may not be an Afghan (whether Dari or Pushtu) pronunciation.

Angshu appears to be saying that a bilingual French and English speaker should pronounce the capital of France in the French way when speaking English. Presumably I, in the same way, should continue to pronounce London in the English fashion when I am speaking French (even though I am not bilingual), and ignore the fact that French has a perfectly good version – Londres. Most English speakers know that Germany is called Deutschland in German. Are newsreaders to say “In Deutschland this afternoon …”? That way madness lies.
When Mishal Husain is speaking Punjabi, or Urdu, or whatever her other language is as a bilingual speaker, then I would expect her to call England by whatever it happens to be in that language, and not “England”. Likewise, when she is speaking English, it is mere pretension to affect a Punjabi/Urdu pronunciation for a South Asian place name, when there is a well-established English version.


  1. Hey it’s interesting when Mishal speaks perfect English then pronounces Afghanistan the correct way. You should listen to Lola Martinez on CNN, when she does the weather she usually uses the regional pronunciation!

  2. Sam, please think before you write; I’ve no idea what you mean in either sentence.

    Graham, you are absolutely right about Mishal Husain, and I wrote to BBC World News to the same effect (with no reply, as expected). It is mere pretension and linguistic ignorance rather than the correctness she evidently assumes.

    Let’s make a comparison: does frequent BBC broadcaster Agnes Poirier talk about Paris and France with the French pronunciations? No, she’s too sensible. She knows she’s speaking English, not French, and she uses the accepted English way to say those words.

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