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25 City Names Around the World You’re Mispronouncing

Sound like a native—or at least a savvy tourist—when you learn how to say these place names correctly.

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Budapest, Hungary - September 26 2017: Matthias Square with the Matthias Church and the Fisherman's Bastion with tourists enjoying the sunny day in Budapest HungaryPhoto: Shutterstock

1. Budapest, Hungary

Buda and Pest actually used to be two separate Hungarian settlements, but the two were joined (along with the town of Òbuda) in 1873 and became the official capital of the country. It’s pronounced “booda-pesht.”

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Shanghai skyline with residential district in China.Photo: Shutterstock

2. Shanghai, China

One of the most well-known cities in China is also one of the most frequently mispronounced places in the world. Many pronounce the name of the “Paris of the East” with a hard “a” in the beginning, when the correct reading is actually something more like “shahng-hi.”

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Saint Jean Castle and Cathedral de la Major and the Vieux port in Marseille, FrancePhoto: Shutterstock

3. Marseille, France

French is a language with many silent letters, so it’s understandable that English speakers wouldn’t get it right, but that’s not enough of an excuse to keep getting it wrong. Depending on the region in France a speaker is from, it’s either pronounced “mar-say” or “mar-sigh.”

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Worcester, Massachusetts, USA Skyline.Photo: Shutterstock

4. Worcester, Massachusetts

Because of the way it’s spelled, it’s natural to assume it would be pronounced “war-chester,” but that’s totally wrong. A real local knows it is “wooster.”

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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - Dec 29 2016: Areal image of Brisbane CBD and South Bank. Brisbane is the capital of QLD and the third largest city in AustraliaPhoto: Shutterstock

5. Brisbane, Australia

Forget the letter “a” in Brisbane altogether, because Aussies don’t even bother pronouncing it. In Australia, it’s “Bris-bn,” as if there’s no vowel at the end of the word at all. The city’s overwhelming population of 2.2 million people will thank you for saying it correctly.

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Thailand boat at Phuket island landscapePhoto: Shutterstock

6. Phuket, Thailand

Many foreigners take joy in this city’s name because they think it is pronounced just like a certain English curse word, but that’s wrong! In English, “ph” is typically pronounced like an “f” sound, but the correct pronunciation for this Thai city is “poo-ket” or “poo-get.”

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Marble courtyard at Palace of Versailles, FrancePhoto: Shutterstock

7. Versailles, France

Say “ver-sails,” in France, and you may as well just turn around and go back home right now. The true pronunciation is much more elegant: “ver-sigh.”

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Assisi, Italy. Basilica of St. Francis, XIII century. and a portico, XV century. Included in the list of UNESCOPhoto: Shutterstock

8. Assisi, Italy

This is a great instance of how the same letter can be pronounced different ways. Some people are inclined to calling this Italian city “ah-see-see,” but the double consonants are pronounced differently than the single consonant. Instead, it is pronounced “ah-see-zee.”

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PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA: Winter view of ski resort in Pyeongchang, South Korea. PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA/2016Photo: Shutterstock

9. Pyeongchang, South Korea

The 2018 Olympics were held in this famous city of South Korea, but most foreigners are still pronouncing it the wrong way. Canadians tend to lay into their “a” sounds, making this city sound like “Pyung-chayng.” Koreans pronounce the city by essentially disregarding that letter altogether: “Pyung-chng.”

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A scenic of view of the local landscape in Bagac, Bataan, Philippines. Two wooden houses stand along a river. Mountains surround the area.Photo: Shutterstock

10. Bataan, Philippines

Read about World War II’s Bataan Death March in the history books and talk about it in history class the correct way! Bataan is commonly pronounced by North Americans as “ba-tan,” but the correct way to say it is “ba-tah-an.” It may not roll well off the English tongue, but that’s the way it is!

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Digital art, Housing stacked up a hillside in Port-Au-Prince, HaitiPhoto: Shutterstock

11. Port-au-Prince, Haiti

In Haiti, the people speak a type of Haitian Creole or French. It’s no surprise, then, that this Haitian capital is pronounced like some of the other French cities on this list. In French, “prince” sounds more like “prance,” but with a somewhat soft “a” sound.

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Aerial view of Nottingham, EnglandPhoto: Shutterstock

12. Nottingham, England

Canadians will see “-ham” in the name of this English city and immediately want to pronounce it the same way the meat is pronounced. In England, however, it is pronounced as “notting-hm.” It is the same Nottingham whose sheriff the character Robin Hood so despised in his tales.

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Edinburgh, Scotland - February 10th 2015 - Tourists and locals walking in the streets of downtown Edinburgh in Scotland.Photo: Shutterstock

13. Edinburgh, Scotland

This city is another one that is pronounced with more syllables than it looks like it would be. It is not “edin-berg,” like many incorrectly state, but rather, “ed-in-bur-uh.”

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 21: Beautiful victorian architecture on Ingram Street on July 21, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow is known for its Victorian architecture from the 19th century.Photo: Shutterstock

14. Glasgow, Scotland

By the looks of it, the city of Glasgow would be pronounced “glas-cow,” with a hard emphasis on the last two letters of the word. The right way to pronounce this Scottish city, however, is “glass-go.”

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MERIDA, MEXICO - FEB 27, 2016: Shops under a archway in Merida, MexicoPhoto: Shutterstock

15. Mérida, Mexico

Many Canadians pronounce this beachy Mexican travel destination as if it didn’t have any accent marks, but in many languages, including Spanish, accents are extremely important. It is pronounced as “mare-ee-da,” and it is one of the best places to visit in the Yucatan.

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LEIPZIG, GERMANY - July 21, 2017: General City Landscape Leipzig, GermanyPhoto: Shutterstock

16. Leipzig, Germany

People commonly mispronounce this German city as either “leap-zig” or “lep-zig,” but what is important to remember about the German language is that it is not a soft one. The correct pronunciation of this city in Saxony is “lipe-zig.”

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Toledo, Spain old town city skyline.Photo: Shutterstock

17. Toledo, Spain

Everyone knows the city of Jerusalem as a point of religious convergence for people of the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish faiths, but Toledo also shares that distinction. In fact, Toledo is an official World Heritage Site for that very reason. It’s probably important, then, to know how to pronounce it. For the record, it’s not “toe-lee-doh” but “toh-leh-doh.”

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PORVOO, FINLAND - SEPTEMBER 11: Tourists walk through streets on September 11, 2017 in Porvoo, Finland. Porvoo is one of the six medieval towns in FinlandPhoto: Shutterstock

18. Porvoo, Finland

One of the first towns to ever be erected in medieval Finland, Porvoo still retains its ancient beauty. Modern visitors should be aware, though, that the correct way to pronounce the city name is “pore-vo.” The double vowels at the end of the city’s name aren’t pronounced as such.

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Aix-en-Provence, France - June 20, 2016: Cardeurs square with cafes and restaurants in the old town of Aix-en-Provence city on the south of France.Photo: Shutterstock

19. Aix-en-Provence, France

Revered post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839 and is one of the main reasons tourists visit this southern French city. The question, however, is if tourists know how to pronounce the name of the city when they get there. The correct way to say it is “x-on-prov-ahnce.”

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Cathedral Of Christ Savior At Autumn Day. Famous Christian Landmark In Russia. Moscow, Russia.Photo: Shutterstock

20. Moscow, Russia

Just like the city of Glasgow in Scotland, Moscow, Russia is pronounced as if there were no “w” at the end of the name. If there’s a trend in this list, it’s how many well-known capitals get mispronounced all the time!

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Beijing, China - Apr. 18, 2018: Tourists visit the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China.Photo: Shutterstock

21. Beijing, China

The Chinese capital is pronounced the exact way it is spelled, and yet plenty of people still get it wrong. “Bei-jing” is the way it is meant to be read, but “beige-ing” is the common mispronunciation. This time it is OK to trust in the letters!

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Aerial view at sunrise of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra - one of the main symbol of Kiev, Ukraine Photo: Shutterstock

22. Kiev, Ukraine

“Key-ev.” Simple and to the point, right? Wrong. This four-letter Ukrainian city is deceptively simple. There are many disputes concerning how it is actually pronounced. Most Ukrainians agree that it is read as “keev” or “key-eve.”

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View of the old port of Cannes, FrancePhoto: Shutterstock

23. Cannes, France

The famous film festival that occurs in this French city always stirs up the conversation of how to correctly pronounce it. The way it is commonly pronounced in the United States is the way it absolutely should never be pronounced (i.e. “CANS.”) The French would have you say, “cahn.”

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Cathedral in Leicester, EnglandPhoto: Shutterstock

24. Leicester, England

The true pronunciation of Leicester, England is a lot like the pronunciation of Worcester, Massachusetts. It is not “lie-chester,” as it appears, but rather, “lester,” like the male name. The deceptive letters strike again!

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TIJUANA, MEXICO - APRIL 26, 2017: Santiago Arguello pedestrianized shopping and bars street with festival flags above, millennial arch (el arco y reloj monumental) and blurred motion silhuettesPhoto: Shutterstock

25. Tijuana, Mexico

Canadians tend to pronounce this city name as if it has a few extra syllables. However, it is not correct to call it “tee-ah-juan-ah.” Why people pronounce it that way is rather odd, considering the way it is spelled. It is just “tee-juan-ah,” and nothing extra.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest