One of my permanent annoyances/constant amusements about living in the English-speaking world is what happens to my name when others try to pronounce it. My first name, Carsten, is a typical Northern German/Danish first name, widely used in Scandinavia and Germany. It means ‘Christian,’ I believe. In German, you’d pronounce it ‘Kah-stn.’ With a silent R and the vowel in the last syllable is sort of swallowed. For most of my adult life – since I’ve lived in English-speaking countries – I’ve been ‘Car-sten,’ with a pronounced R (level or rolling tends to depend on where you are… South Africans roll it one way, North Americans another).
My last name is where it gets interesting (I’m not sure if that should be ‘last name’ or ‘surname’ – that’s another North America versus Europe discussion). Knoch is really hard to pronounce for any English-speaking person from just having heard or read it – none of the German sounds make any sort of sense to their tongues, teeth and palates. What I get most frequently is ‘Notch’ or ‘Knock.’ (At the pharmacy, they pronounced it ‘Notch’ and couldn’t find my prescription because they’d filed it under ‘T’. Still no medication for stupidity. Go figure.)
My parents lived in Canada for a couple of years before I was born. So for most of my childhood, I heard field reports about how North Americans would say our name. Their observations turned out to be accurate.
Pronouncing my last name properly isn’t really that hard. The K is pronounced (it’s not a silent K – English doesn’t have this in any convention or exception [think knight, knife…]). The rest of the word sounds Scottish, like the ‘och’ in Loch Ness. Knoch. How hard can it be?