Lonely Planet Writer

Which way to Eyjafjallajökull? Struggle no more with hard-to-pronounce places

How do you pronounce Eyjafjallajökull anyway? From Ptuj to Chao Phraya and Park Güell, these are some of the common cities and landmarks that native English-speaking tourists fail to pronounce. Don’t even get us started on the Welsh town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Next time you consult a map, here’s a guide that could come in handy when selecting your next stop.

Sign showing the trail to Eyjafjallajökull volcano, one of the most hard-to-pronounce landmarks.  Image by Getty

The Slovenian city, Ptuj, has been revealed as the world’s hardest city to pronounce with native English speakers, with 92% of tourists failing to know the correct pronunciation, new research has revealed. Most of us pronounce Ptuj as ‘Put-ooj’ when the correct pronunciation is actually ‘P-too-ee’. The research, conducted by cruise agent Bolsover Cruise Club, found that people also struggle with Portugal’s Guimaraes (88%), Croatia’s Rijeka (84%), Macedonia’s Skopje (80%) and Mexico’s Oaxaca ‘wah-hah-kah’ (76%).

The study researched the cities, landmarks and phrases that tourists struggle to pronounce and discovered that the Greek language was the hardest language for native English speakers to master abroad, closely followed by Slovene, Swedish, Dutch and Croatian. Also proving challenging were Slovenian, Croatian, Macedonian, Welsh and Hungarian because of their distance from English grammar and vocabulary.

Michael Wilson, managing director at Bolsover Cruise Club commented: “mastering the national language when heading abroad is always a great way to impress the locals, however, it seems many of us don’t always get it right. It was interesting to discover Greek topped the list as the most difficult language for tourists to speak, however that shouldn’t deter would-be travellers. Trying to speak the local dialect will always contribute to cultural immersion”.

Tourists also struggle with famous landmarks with 98% of those surveyed failing to pronounce the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull correctly. This was followed by the Chao Phraya River in Thailand (74%), Barcelona’s Park Güell (68%), Thailand’s Khaosan Road (57%) and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Surprisingly, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – the Welsh town with Europe’s longest name and perhaps one of the hardest places to pronounce in the world – came in at 11th place. Can you wrap your tongue around that pronunciation?