You know when you’re trying to be all cultured and stuff, but then you totally butcher a word’s pronunciation and get a look like this?
If you haven’t practiced rolling your Rs or memorized the words where a consonant completely changes its sound (which is often), you’ll likely get a few blank stares wondering what the hell you’re trying to say.
You can’t realistically get it right 100% of the time, and you definitely get points for trying, but these are some of the most common offenders on the most-mispronounced Central American place names.
It’s not CHILLY, or even CHEELAY. The E is a softer sound, like the E in Elephant.
Caye Caulker (Belize)
KEY CALL KER
The word CAYE is commonly used in Central America and it means a small island with low elevation.
No cubes were harmed in the naming of this country.
AN TI GA
The tricky part about this one is that the Antigua in Spain is pronounced with the U whereas the Antigua in Central America has a silent U. Antigua in Central America has Portuguese influence rather than Spanish, and the U is silent in the Portuguese version.
WA HA KA
Those pesky Xs are pretty common when you travel through Central America, and most often they make a H noise. Many people also want to separate the OA into two different sounds, which in combination with the X just creates a big hot mess.
MEH HE CO
The traditional way is perfectly okay in the English speaking world, but for locals, the X is either a H or SH sound.
COL OM BEE AH
That second O is important folks, in written and verbal form. Leave the U at home.
Chichen Itza (Mexico)
CHEE CHEN EAT ZA
Don’t ask us how, but somewhere along the line it’s become acceptable to call this Mayan city CHICKEN PIZZA. The spelling of this one is pretty easy as well, so we’re not quite sure why people love to butcher it, but alas they do.
Arenal (Costa Rica)
AH RAY NAL
No to be confused with ADRENAL (AH DREE NUL) which is definitely a gland and pronounced very differently.
Another pesky X…. In this case it’s replaced by a SH sound rather than just H.