Je m’appelle «Dah-Nah» (Just call me “Dah-Nah.”)

My name is not “Dana” anymore, and it hasn’t been for almost three weeks. Nope, the French look at my name, scrunch up their faces in a puzzled manner, look at me nervously and ask, “Dah-nah?” French phonetics are a bit more straight forward than English phonetics. In English, we have as many as three different sounds for “a” such as “apple” or “date” or “ah.” In French, the only “a” sound is “ahhhhh.” The long “aye” sound we hear in words like “crate” or “fate” is represented in French with the symbol “é.” So, when the French see my name, which is not super common in English, let alone in French, they use the phonetic rules they know to pronounce it like, “Dah-nah.”

Most French people are surprised when I tell them that actually, in English, my name is phonetically pronounced like “Déna,” or “Day-nah.” One woman asked me if I preferred “Déna” or “Dah-nah.” I told her that my prénom, (first name) is “Dana” (Déna/Day-nah), but all French people, no matter where I am, including my US professors, call me “Dah-nah.” Even more curious is that although the majority of French people have no problem pronouncing my name once they slow down for a few seconds and think about it, they still call me, “Dah-nah.”

Curiously enough, the guy I’m staying with right now told me there’s a famous French song called, La tribu de Dana so maybe that’s why they all assume that is how my name is pronounced. Check it out! (You can hear how they say my name at 1:00).

Do the French (or anyone else) have trouble pronouncing your name as well?


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