A friend wrote on Facebook:
As a basic sign of respect for Lu Lingzi, the BU student killed in last week's bombing, can the NPR folks at least take five seconds to learn how to pronounce her name correctly?
I've wished before for a class that would teach how to pronounce various languages. The idea is similar to those crash courses for tourists visiting foreign countries, but the focus would be on pronunciation, with vocabulary only as a happy side effect.
It could be done a lot of ways. It could be taught in grade school; it could be an adult education thing; it could be an app or family of apps; it could be a blog or tweet stream or a daily column in the newspaper or a YouTube channel.
It might help to have multiple teachers who specialize in different languages. Teaching could focus on just Romanized forms or, for the ambitious, it could include how to read non-Roman alphabets like Cyrillic and Korean.
I would benefit from such a class. At Thai and Vietnamese restaurants I'm sometimes uncomfortable ordering things from the menu that I'm not sure how to pronounce. One of these days I should put in the effort to learn.
Mandarin romanizes in a pretty straightforward way that I'm sure most people could learn, especially if we set aside the tones. It would help if reporters would pronounce things right, which they could do on a case-by-case basis with just a minute of coaching. For starters, they could pronounce "Beijing" with the "j" in "jingle bells" rather than the "zh" in "Doctor Zhivago".
Come to think of it, I'm not positive I pronounce "Zhivago" correctly.