If you follow me on Twitter, you would know that I have been talking a bit about diversity in audiobooks – as in getting diverse narrators to read audiobooks, or at least make an effort to pronounce non-English words correctly.
I’m a bit triggered about this because I have been on the other end of being ridiculed for not pronouncing English words correctly. News flash, I did not grow up in America. I immigrated here when I was 21. While my accent is not that thick, I still pronounce some words incorrectly and I always get corrected. But that’s not just it, I get corrected, but others who don’t pronounce words well, do not! Double standard much? Or maybe flat-out racism?
This brings me to our current discussion today. Diversity in audiobooks. While romance has done a better job in the last few years to amplify diverse voices, there is still much to be done. But I personally think that representation matters even in our audiobooks! And I think they are failing a bit on that end.
I’ve already encountered a couple of audiobooks by diverse authors where the narrator mispronounces a non-English word. Now, you might think that is a minor detail but if we want diversity, at least find a narrator that can speak the non-English language fluently. Of heck, GOOGLE the freaking pronunciation. While this is not a huge problem for other languages, it is a problem for Filipino/Tagalog words. And let me tell you, it is very, VERY annoying.
One book that I found that did an AMAZING job about finding the right narrator for the book, is Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz. This book is a YA contemporary romance/coming of age #ownvoices book where the main character is a Filipina teen who grew up in America. Do you know what this audiobook publisher do right? They actually picked a Filipino narrator to read the book. And it 100% added to my experience in the story.
This is a quote from my audiobook review for the audio part:
Audiobook (and the Filipino accent)
I was tickled when I listened to the audiobook. In fact, I did not expect the author to use a Filipino accent when Jasmine’s father and mother and Lola Cherry were speaking. I thought she was very believable 90% of the time, which is pretty good. Of course, there were parts that felt a little odd to my ears.
I was also listening to the audiobook without the use of headphones, so when my mom passed by my room, she stopped and said, “Oh, Pilipino man lagi na!” (Oh, that’s Filipino!) So, kudos to Cassie Simone for her awesome, awesome job.
Unfortunately, not all audiobooks are like this. I can’t speak for other languages since I only speak English, Tagalog, and Bisaya. But these other two examples of #fail in audiobook narration were a huge disappointment to me because they are also from the big 5 publishers.
Faker by Sarah Smith is another #ownvoices book where the heroine is half-Filipino. In the book, the main character, Emmie, is watching her favorite Filipino variety show, Eat Bulaga! And the narrator butchered the whole word and basically said BALUGA! BALUGA! A beluga is a whale. Bulaga in Tagalog means “gotcha” or “surprise.” I was totally turned off by the audiobook after that so I could not concentrate. I finished the ebook instead. The audiobook was published by Penguin Audio and they couldn’t even get a narrator that knew how to pronounce it?! Or heck, Google the pronunciation? 😑
My tweet a couple of weeks ago was because of You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria. The heroine in this book is half-Filipino and half-Latinx but she doesn’t speak Tagalog. Unfortunately, the narrator pronounced Tagalog wrong! Urgh! One of my book friends also said that there is another word that was mispronounced later in the book, but I did not get far enough. I will be picking up the ebook instead.
Ultimately, I am disappointed that the narrators don’t make the effort to learn how to pronounce non-English words. At least, it’s not clear in the audiobooks that I listened to where they speak Tagalog words. 🤷🏻♀️
Do you think I am overreacting?
Do you think audiobook publishers should do better?
Share your favorite audiobooks below!
Do you have any bookish discussion suggestions? Please submit them here!