How to pronounce "Che" of Che Guevara

Is it “chay” or “shay” or something else entirely? I’ve read it plenty of times, but never heard his name spoken (perhaps its like saying Candyman five times into a mirror?).


Hmmm…I would beg to differ

What’s kind of odd, Photog is that the page that you’ve referenced shows the pronunciation as chA, but when I click on the pronunciation key link, they show no suggested pronunciation for their use of ‘A’. Without that, it could have the same ‘a’ sound as chay, chah, or chat.

I think it’s Chey.

Think of the vowel sound as half-long A (halfway between the sounds of “met” and “mate”).

I can’t get past the anglo-centricity of you people. The “ay” pronunciation is strictly English, not Spanish and not any other Romance language. You might know they do not Speak English in South America. In Spanish the “e” is pronounced “eh” and not “ay”. This is really some very basic Spanish pronunciation and it is not difficult. Spanish reading and writing are very straightforward and simple compared to English. The letter E is only pronounced AY in Spanish by English-speaking people who do not want to bother getting it right.


Right you are. I hadn’t noticed that. I mistakenly read your op as questioning only the enunciation of the ‘ch’.

Pardon my anglo-centrism, but it simply happens to be the only language I speak. So far, nobody has offered their suggested pronunciation of his name and told us that it is definitively so, so I think your outrage is a little unwarranted.

When names and words from other languages are used within a different language, different pronunciations are common. In Mandarin, my country is called “Jianada”, I presume because “Canada” doesn’t suit their common sounds. I’m ok with that.

I have a friend of Asian extraction who cannot pronounce another friend’s name, Linda, very well. Would you similarly jump down his throat for not trying hard enough to get it right?

Sailor, how about the word chihuahua? Got any non-anglo pronunciation tips?

Little unfortunate typo in my first reply.

Anyway, “Che” is his nickname of course. Ernesto Guevara is his real name.

Careful … you wouldn’t want anyone turning the tables and accusing a native castellano speaker of “not wanting to bother getting it right” when said speaker pronounces English “shop” as “chop”.

Pronouncing Spanish e as “ay” is not usually a sign of linguistic laziness in and of itself. If there are other corroborating signs of linguistic haughtiness on the part of the native English speaker in question – like adding a derisively-pronounced terminal “o” to English words while looking down the nose (“Cleano uppo el messo!”) – then sure … jump down their throat.

But for a native English speaker giving Spanish their best attempt – especially on the fly, in public, and not in the safety of a classroom – I’d be inclined to cut a good deal of slack upon hearing “grandey”, “do-lah-rays”, “uno, dos, trace”, etc. YMM, of course, V.

I’m sorry but I had assumed the OP was asking for the correct Spanish pronunciation and that is what I was answering. In English I agree that an approximation is good enough but the closer the approximation the better. I do not believe the word has become part of the English language in which case Spanish pronunciation would be irrelevant.

And you did so accurately. It was the side order of condemnation that caused any bad feelings.

Just an aside: with second-language speakers, I feel it’s best to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are doing their best. As long as the essential message is communicated from speaker to listener, and the speaker appears to be acting respectfully and in good faith, specific points of pronunciation aren’t particularly important, IMHO. Others may feel differently.

bordelond, I totally agree that one cannot demand perfect pronunciation from foreigners and one must be understanding. I have no complaints about people who cannot pronounce well a foreign language after they make a reasonable effort. But that is different from giving bad pronunciation guidelines to those who ask. If someone asks for Spanish pronunciation why do people who do not speak Spanish feel qualified to give (wrong) answers? Why not let those who know the answer reply? The fact that you cannot accurately pronounce a word (which is forgivable) does not excuse you from passing on bad pronunciation to others who ask what is the correct pronunciation. You would think that people would know enough to know they are not qualified to answer the question. Why do people feel the impulse to pop in and just give any information they can think of? I am not especifically talking about this thread now but of every thread where it happens (and it happens all the time) and even in real life. ever notice how people will rather give you wrong directions when you ask than tell you they don’t know? They are so eager to help they will give you wrong directions and make matters worse. That’s what gets to me.

From what I understand of Spanish pronunciation – and I welcome correction from someone who knows not merely a local dialect pronunciation but the breadth of “proper” Spanish as it differs from country to country – most Spanish speakers render a terminal E as a sound rare in American English. Our short E is a definite “eh” sound; our long English A (continental long E) is a drawn-out “ay” sound reminiscent of the Fonz from Happy Days greeting Richie. Spanish long E is a very clipped “ay” sound with no “ay-e-e-e-e-e” drawn out. Imagine a veddy proper “U” Englishman saying “On Race Day they pray” in the middle of a long utterance, and you have an approximation of Spanish E.

I grant that the norm in some countries may sound it as “eh,” shortening it from the Castellano Americano norm, but I believe I’ve defined the standard above. (For a comparison, indicate by a English-phonemes respelling how to say “Me llamo Llewellyn Lloyd,” presuming Sr. Double-L to be a Spanish-speaking native of Welsh descent of the country you’re indicating the proper way to say “Che” for.)

Between you and me: I can’t tell from the OP whether or not Standup Karmic is actually asking for proper Spanish pronunciation. It’s certainly not unreasonable to assume so – but it’s also possible that Standup Karmic hadn’t fully thought the question through, and therefore an approximate, immediately workable, anglicized pronunciation may have been sufficient.

Still in all, your points are, in general, well taken.

Many American English dialects (inluding my own) do have a vowel that is very close to Spanish “e”. That would be the vowel in words like “air”, “hair”, and “bear”, which quite a few Americans distinguish from the vowels in “ate”, “hate”, and “bait” **.

The trick is to learn to pronounce the vowel in “air” without any trace of the oncoming r-glide. The tongue will naturally begin to form the shape necessary to pronounce “r” even while the vowel is being pronounced. Resisting the “r” rends a sufficiently short vowel that’s pretty much the Spanish “e”.

[sub]** This is related to the famous distinctions between “Mary”, “marry”, and “merry” in various American English … which has been an entire thread unto itself many times. So we won’t go there.[/sub]

English vowels are totally different from Spanish vowels. To the Spanish ear a single English long vowel is two distinct sounds. Spanish vowels are a single, short, sounds. They are not difficult to do with your mouth, the difficulty is just getting rid of the habit of pronouncing them as in English. The Americans I know who make an effort get them right in no time but most people are lazy and once they are being understood they make no further effort.

I recently discussed something similar with a Chinese friend. Chinese does not have an ending T or D sound so they tend to skip it in English. It is not that they can’t do it but it just does not seem important to them. I was telling my friend it not only sounds very odd to hear “wen” instead of “went” but it can make communication over the phone close to impossible. When I call her attention to it she will pronounce the ending Ts for a few minutes and then slide back into her lazy ways. If she made a point of doing it right for a few weeks it would come out naturally after that.

You might want to lear Spanish before answering questions about Spanish pronunciation.

I am too but that is a very different case because they are different words. What you are saying implies that the correct answer to the question “How do you pronounce ‘España’?” is “Spain!”. I don’t think so.

Che is a Spanish word which has no translation into English and so the correct pronunciation is the Spanish pronunciation or as close as you can get to it. I am not picking on anyone for pronouncing it with an English accent. I am picking on those who are saying the correct pronunciation is the English pronunciation.

No, but I would laugh at him if he told me his pronunciation was the correct one. May I?

BTW, I am perfectly fine with pronouncing words with English pronunciation when speaking English and I pronounce my own name and names of cities and countries with English or Spanish pronunciation when speaking each language respectively. Changing pronunciation for a word seems a bit affected to me and I don’t do it.