Johann Sebastian Bach

Rivendell

Senior Member
Spanish / Spain
#1
Hi,

a simple question for the English native speakers. When you talk about Bach (the composer), how do you pronounce his family name??

BaCH like in CHocolate??
Or do you keep the German pronunciation (BaH with a strongly accented H)?

Thank you.
 
  • coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    #2
    I'd say somewhere in between (bok and german "bach" -- not ch as in chocolate), in casual conversation. "Bok" is too natural to avoid altogether when speaking English (the opposite would be true in German), but the pull of the correct German pronunciation forces you to aspirate the end of it a little. That's my take, anyway.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    #5
    With a -ch ending as in Loch:)
    How do I pronounce the -ch in Loch?
    Pan is right, of course, but I wouldn't want to hold my breath waiting for someone in the U.S. to pronounce Loch Ness Monster as anything but "lock." Bach might have different stats, though, as people talking about him might conceivably know a bit about music, and might attempt more of that glottal fricative at the end of his name than people who never even heard of Germany or Scotland.
     

    Rivendell

    Senior Member
    Spanish / Spain
    #7
    Pan is right, of course, but I wouldn't want to hold my breath waiting for someone in the U.S. to pronounce Loch Ness Monster as anything but "lock." Bach might have different stats, though, as people talking about him might conceivably know a bit about music, and might attempt more of that glottal fricative at the end of his name than people who never even heard of Germany or Scotland.
    I'm glad to know both points of view. :)
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    #8
    I always attempt to pronounce it in the German way, but I'm sure most Germans would tell me that I don't do it very well - still, its the thought that counts.
     

    Suilan

    Senior Member
    Germany (NRW)
    #9
    and might attempt more of that glottal fricative at the end of his name than people who never even heard of Germany or Scotland.
    Even the Scots and the Germans would pronounce it as a uvular fricative.

    Been trying to produce a glottal fricative; sounded like a person croaking / in her death throes (I can sympathize with any non-Scottish, non-Irish speaker of English, trying to produce the ch in Loch or Bach; must feel similar ... ;))
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    #10
    Bach was formerly pronounced like (a dog's) bark, except for those who knew some German, but there is fortunately an increasing tendency in English to pronounce foreign names closer to the original language. Football commentators, for instance no longer refer to the Dutch football team Ajax /ayaks/ as if it were the kitchen cleanser "Ajax" /eidjaks/.In WW II Churchill used to refer to the Nazi leaders as Gawring (Göring) Goh -bulls (Göbbels) and General Djodel (Jodl,properly pronounced Yodel) and her, like the feminine pronoun, (for Herr) Hitler. Everybody makes a greater effort to get these things right now.
     

    liliput

    Senior Member
    U.K. English
    #11
    Bach was formerly pronounced like (a dog's) bark, except for those who knew some German, but there is fortunately an increasing tendency in English to pronounce foreign names closer to the original language. Football commentators, for instance no longer refer to the Dutch football team Ajax /ayaks/ as if it were the kitchen cleanser "Ajax" /eidjaks/.In WW II Churchill used to refer to the Nazi leaders as Gawring (Göring) Goh -bulls (Göbbels) and General Djodel (Jodl,properly pronounced Yodel) and her, like the feminine pronoun, (for Herr) Hitler. Everybody makes a greater effort to get these things right now.
    Of course it's possible that Churchill new perfectly well how to pronounce their names but wasn't too worried about offending Nazis.
    It's true that more effort is made to pronounce foreign names correctly these days. I still don't know any English speakers who can pronounce Zürich properly though.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    #12
    Bach was formerly pronounced like (a dog's) bark, except for those who knew some German, but there is fortunately an increasing tendency in English to pronounce foreign names closer to the original language. ... Everybody makes a greater effort to get these things right now.
    I don't know about the formerly!
    Plenty of people still say "ba:k" for Bach, since /x/ is not in their repetory of sounds.

    I've never heard an English person try to pronounce G F Händel's surname in the "authentic" way, or even to write it with ä.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    #13
    Of course it's possible that Churchill knew perfectly well how to pronounce their names but wasn't too worried about offending Nazis.
    It's true that more effort is made to pronounce foreign names correctly these days. I still don't know any English speakers who can pronounce Zürich properly though. (liliput)

    You are quite right about Churchill's attitude, and the erroneous pronunciations provided rhymes for the scurrilous British army song, sung to the tune of Colonel Bogie, which ended:"... Himmler's are rather sim'lar but poor ol' Goballs has no ****s at all". (Quite untrue, as testified to by the Minister for Propaganda's numerous progeny!) I believe that even the citizens of Zürich have difficulties with the pronunciation of their town and end up with Züüüri just as the Cockney calls his home town Lunnen.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    #14
    I've never heard an English person try to pronounce G F Händel's surname in the "authentic" way, or even to write it with ä.
    Handel is different. Unlike Bach, he spent lots of his life in these islands, and ever since he arrived he has been one of the most popular composers here, and I suppose his stage name here was Handel, not Händel or Haendel.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    #15
    Been trying to produce a glottal fricative; sounded like a person croaking / in her death throes (I can sympathize with any non-Scottish, non-Irish speaker of English, trying to produce the ch in Loch or Bach; must feel similar ... ;))
    Any British fan of Bach will almost inevitably also be a fan of BBC Radio 3, and you'll never catch Radio 3 pronouncing Bach as bark, so their listeners have no excuse! Mind you, I'm not so sure about Classic FM.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Radio_3
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classic_FM_(UK)
     
    English - England
    #16
    Of course it's possible that Churchill new perfectly well how to pronounce their names but wasn't too worried about offending Nazis.
    It's true that more effort is made to pronounce foreign names correctly these days. I still don't know any English speakers who can pronounce Zürich properly though.
    How about Munich, Liliput?

    Churchill was unabashed about foreign names: not only the names which Arrius mentions, but Nazi itself he pronounced to sound as like Nasty as possible. He also referred to Nikolaos Pastiras, the Greek prime minister - there's a good photo of him here -
    http://wiki.phantis.com/index.php/Nikolaos_Plastiras as Mr Plasterarse.
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    #17
    The British king that Händel wrote The Water Music for, George I, spoke German and hardly any English, but the umlaut in Händel which the king would have used, and would just have required using an E instead of an A on the part of his courtiers, still never caught on. This just goes to show how fiercely monoglot the English were even in those days.
     

    Suilan

    Senior Member
    Germany (NRW)
    #19
    Churchill was unabashed about foreign names: not only the names which Arrius mentions, but Nazi itself he pronounced to sound as like Nasty as possible.
    Ah well, the German Nazis weren't the only ones Churchill despised; he also didn't like the grammar nazis. When a secretary corrected his usage, because a sentence should not end with a preposition, his response was: "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put."

    (My favorite, and only, Churchill quote. ;))
     

    Harry Batt

    Senior Member
    USA English
    #20
    My ex-wife spent 5 weeks studying French at level three down at Angers until she could pronounce Sacré Coeur. After 5 weeks and a trip to Montmarte she still pronounced the old white church Sacré Bleu! However, she came from a Canadian Menonite German family. Whenever she mentioned the name of our friend, Carl Bach, it was pronounced Car-elle Book. He was a piano tuner and pronounced his own name Ba.k.
     
    Japanese - Tokyo
    #23
    <Merged with an earlier thread. Nat>

    Hello,

    Someone else's question about authors' name gave me an idea:
    How do English speaking people pronounce "Johann Sebastian Bach", the Baroque composer?
    I kind of know that Bach is pronounced BAHK, but what about first and middle names?

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    #24
    Sebastian, as it's identical in form with an English name, is pronounced as in English. I don't know that I've ever heard an announcer give it the initial [z] it has in German. Johann, as a distinctively German name, has the initial German [j], not the sound of English John. The second vowel might be more anglicized as in 'hand', or it might have its German value. I think both are common. And a lot of announcers do give Bach the German [x] sound.
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    #25
    I pronounce it identical to the German pronounciation, except I pronounce the 's' as 's' instead of 'z'. Many people from England and the USA cannot pronounce the German 'ch' sound, but we don't have that problem in Celtic countries.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    #29
    Hmm. It could be. But I pronounce Sebastian and bastion with separate ti-on, not as in common words such as question, suggestion, and I think this is generally true too.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    #35
    I suggest that many people will just use their ordinary English pronunciation of Sebastian, whatever it is. I say suh-BAS-tih-uhn.

    I have a more German pronunciation of Johann since it's not an English given name. I say YO-hahn.

    I pronounce Bach with a soft German 'ch'. I won't be surprised to hear 'k' from some people.
     
    Japanese - Tokyo
    #37
    Interesting.
    So while some people like more authentic German pronunciation, mostly it's
    seh-BASS-tee-on (or something like that) in BrE and seh-BASS-chun in AmE.
    Well, to tell the truth I'm not very good at pronouncing English words so there's
    no point getting any more precise;)
    Thank you very much.
     
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    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    #38
    As to other Bachs, all three of Carl Philipp Emanuel's names are close enough to English names that we generally use English pronunciations, while Wilhelm Friedemann's two aren't near English, so we approximate the German pronunciation.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    #42
    In the US, I would not expect to hear the name "Sebastian" pronounced with four syllables.
    Some of my AE friends and our local classical FM radio station use the four syllable version of Sebastian and get quite close to the German version of Bach. I think the -iAn ending is mentally distinguished from the -iOn version in words like station or even combustion. On the other hand I often hear Bach as Bok with a typical AE version of the lot vowel. so, as ever, AE has a variety of pronunciations:)
     

    Highland Thing

    Senior Member
    English, Welsh
    #44
    The main problem English speakers have, for no obvious reason, is with the surname. First, the final sound, which many pronounce as a [k]. But even those (many too) who manage the [x] for some reason fail to hear that the vowel sound is short, and pronounce it long instead. This is even true of professional musicians and broadcasters, who should all know better.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    #45
    The main problem English speakers have, for no obvious reason, is with the surname. First, the final sound, which many pronounce as a [k]. But even those (many too) who manage the [x] for some reason fail to hear that the vowel sound is short, and pronounce it long instead. This is even true of professional musicians and broadcasters, who should all know better.
    To help fix this egregious error,:) could you tell us what English words have that vowel, so they can practise?
     

    Highland Thing

    Senior Member
    English, Welsh
    #46
    It would suffice to say the English word 'back', in almost any accent you like and substituting a [x] for any intended [k], to get a version that it infinitely sweeter to the German-attuned ear than any of those - egregious indeed - attempts that pass for efforts made by almost anyone who has ever uttered this name on BBC Radio 3! And if you could say 'back' like a working-class Liverpudlian, you would all but reach pronunciational* Nirvana.
    (*Real word)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    #47
    I think the pronunciation needn't be exactly German though, and an Anglicised pronunciation isn't a problem. I always hear the 'father' vowel in Bach. I'm happy for an English diphthong for Beethoven, as in 'bay', as well.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    #48
    It would suffice to say the English word 'back', in almost any accent you like and substituting a [x] for any intended [k], to get a version that it infinitely sweeter to the German-attuned ear than any of those - egregious indeed - attempts that pass for efforts made by almost anyone who has ever uttered this name on BBC Radio 3! And if you could say 'back' like a working-class Liverpudlian, you would all but reach pronunciational* Nirvana.
    (*Real word)
    My recollections of German a's after living there for 9 months and eventually being asked by a local in Darmstadt "Do you come from Hamburg?" are that the cat vowel in the word back, at least in my SE English, is much shorter than the a in a typical German setting. Not quite as long, certainly, as the a in path/father etc., (the one with a broad a), but somewhere in between. The extended broad a in some versions of RP do reach the "unsweet" level in (English and) German, but I don't recall noticing a difference as large you seem to be lamenting. Perhaps you are pointing the finger specifically at Radio 3 - it's been a while since I listened with any regularity. If the BBC in general is any guide, I would have expected a greater variety of pronunciation as a result of the broader range of accents to be heard these days:)
     

    Highland Thing

    Senior Member
    English, Welsh
    #49
    the cat vowel in the word back, at least in my SE English, is much shorter than the a in a typical German setting.
    Not shorter, just a different quality. Should be!

    but I don't recall noticing a difference as large you seem to be lamenting. Perhaps you are pointing the finger specifically at Radio 3 - it's been a while since I listened with any regularity. If the BBC in general is any guide, I would have expected a greater variety of pronunciation as a result of the broader range of accents to be heard these days:)
    It's true that one or two of the now-permitted Scottish presenters do a pretty good job at a Germanesque pronunciation, but the London Set are as bad as ever, if not worse. And that's without starting on their Barely Ohs, Rickard Strowss, Mendles'n, Davor Jacques, Rack Manny-Nov, Da Byoo-See, Bella Bar-Tock, M'Zorg-Ski, Borra Din and the rest of them.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    #50
    Not shorter, just a different quality. Should be!



    It's true that one or two of the now-permitted Scottish presenters do a pretty good job at a Germanesque pronunciation, but the London Set are as bad as ever, if not worse. And that's without starting on their Barely Ohs, Rickard Strowss, Mendles'n, Davor Jacques, Rack Manny-Nov, Da Byoo-See, Bella Bar-Tock, M'Zorg-Ski, Borra Din and the rest of them.
    Talk about a sensitive subject:)
    Are you upset at the very existence of "Anglicization" or the fact that you think they should be "pronunciation perfect" in the respective languages but fail?
     
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