Some of us, including me, panic slightly when we have to say out loud words that come from other languages. We’re fairly confident that we’re about to embarrass ourselves, perhaps offend someone slightly, or sound pretentious.

But you don’t need to suddenly switch to heavy (and slightly offensive) faux-Italian gesticulation and enunciation just to say something about your “Termignoni” exhaust.

Knowing it’s pronounced “termi-NYO-ni” without a hard “g” sound is all you need to know, and just say it otherwise like you normally would.

So here’s how to pronounce motorcycle words you’ll find that come from other languages — brands, terms, and trademarks — while still speaking English, and not sounding pretentious or affected.

(Yes, there are recordings of my own voice below. I’ll tone down my accent to a kind of “neutral international” one. Be nice, please.)

ohlins rear shock - how to pronounce ohlins
Öhlins suspension. So pretty, so expensive, so good, so Swedish, so hard to guess how to pronounce.

If you’d like to request another one, drop a comment below. I’ll keep adding to this.

Are you obsessed with motorcycles?

Well, I am. That’s why I created this site — as an outlet. I love learning and sharing what others might find useful. If you like what you read here, and you’re a fraction as obsessed as I am, you might like to know when I’ve published more. (Check the latest for an idea of what you’ll see.)

General guide to pronouncing words in other languages

The point of this is to help people pronounce words roughly like how they were intended — but nobody cares if you try, and get it wrong!

The worst thing you can do is not even ask, and consistently not try. So when in doubt, ask, and any native speaker will be glad to help.

For each word I’ll include

  1. An official pronunciation (which you don’t have to copy as it’s normally over-the-top). I’ve found some official ones online.
  2. The “neutral English” pronunciation. (My attempt at a neutral, global accent, not some regional Texan, Liverpudlian, or outback Australian one)

I’ll also write out the pronunciation, trying to use conventional generic English-like spelling (e.g. “ch” sounds like the end of “sandwich”), and CAPitalise the SYllable with EMphasis.

Also, while I’m not fluent in all these languages (least of all the one we’re about to start with), without wanting to brag, and just wanting to explain “this is why I can write this”, I do speak quite a few languages and am a small-time authority on language learning. See the end for more about me.

Akrapovič

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Akrapovič ah-KRAH-po-vich
How to pronounce Akrapovič

Akrapovič is a well known Slovenian manufacturer of exhausts. But Slovenian is a lesser known language, to be sure.

As I don’t speak this one, I had to double check this one with native speakers, like this frustrated Slovenian guy on Youtube. My heart goes out to you!

To pronounce Akrapovič you put the emphasis is on the kra and the č is pronounced like “ch”. You don’t have to trill your “r” in English, but put the emphasis there and pronounce the last ch sound.

how to pronounce akrapovic on a yamaha mt-10
How do you pronounce the Akrapovič exhaust on this Yamaha MT-10?

Baja (California)

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Baja BA-ha
How to pronounce Baja

Baja refers to Baja California, the west of Mexico, a popular adventure motorcycling destination.

If you’re American and learned any Spanish in school, or if you’ve been to Baja, or if you speak Spanish, you’ll know how to pronounce baja.

But many Australians and Brits just read about “Baja sleds” (usually some kind of long-range, off-road vehicle) and we don’t know better (or so I realised when I was talking to a fellow Australian about Baja a few weeks ago).

Literally baja means “low”, so this refers to “lower California”.

Bajaj

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Bajaj ba-JAHJ
How to pronounce Bajaj

Bajaj is a huge Indian auto and motorcycle manufacturer. They’re also the outsourced manufacturer for a few models for KTM and Triumph.

The “j” in Bajaj is a regular hard “j” like in “juice”. In Hindi, Bajaj is written “बजाज”.

Bajaj is often mispronounced with a soft “j”, which isn’t too far off.

Corsa (and Corse)

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Corsa
Corse
COR-sah
COR-seh
How to pronounce Corsa and Corse

This is a special version of many Italian motorcycles. Corsa simply means “race” in Italian.

Corse is just the plural of Corsa, despite some other forum posters coming up with random other theories (sigh).

People tend to say this well generally, but I wanted to just confirm that that’s the case.

Desmodue, Desmoquattro, Desmosedici

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Desmodue
Desmoquattro
Desmosedici
desmo-DOO-eh
desmo-KWATT-roh
desmo-SE-dichi
How to pronounceDesmodue, Desmoquattro, Desmosedici

These are Ducati trademarks (not dictionary words, but involving some Italian components) describing the camshaft operation of some of Ducati’s engines.

Each word is made up of the particle “desmo” (from Greek, meaning “domed”) and due (two), quattro (four) and sedici (sixteen), each number referring to the number of valves.

There’s no desmootto, even though that could hypothetically been used to describe motors with four valves per cylinder and two cylinders, like in the Monster 821 (which is called the Testastretta, referring to the angle between these valves — not the angle between the cylinders, which is still 90 degrees).

See here for my guide to desmodromic valves.

Evoluzione

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Evoluzione evo-loo-tzi-OH-ne
How to pronounceEvoluzione

Means “evolution” in Italian. You can find it in engine trademark names, or saying EVO is short for it (e.g. the Monster 1100 EVO). Just saying “evo” is a good shortcut!

The watch-out is that in evoluzione is that the z in Italian is pronounced “tz”.

Ducati Monster 1100 EVO - stock image
Monster 1100 Evoluzione. Now say “Evoluzione”!

Husqvarna

Added per request!

Husqvarna is a very old Swedish-origin company, known for garden tools like chainsaws, tractors, and so on, but also for motorcycles in recent years. It’s named for the town in which the company was originally founded hundreds of years ago. These days, KTM owns the motorcycle division (not the power products company).

Swedish is another language I don’t speak, so I consulted the internets (Julien Miquel on on Youtube).

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Husqvarna hoosk-VAR-nah
How to pronounce Husqvarna

While it may have a scary “q” in there (rarely seen not alongside a “u” in English), it’s pronounced as you would normally pronounce a “k”. And in Swedish, the “u” sound is pronounced like an “oo” through slightly pursed lips.

I don’t think you need to either purse your lips, but the minimum effort would be to pronounce the “u” as an “oo” (as in “pool”).

Marzocchi

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Marzocchi mar-TZOH-kki
How to pronounce Marzocchi

This Italian manufacturer of suspension components is pronounced the same way you’d say gnocchi, also from Italian. This is a brand, not a word.

But there’s also a z (tz) and the cchi sound has to be emphasised as there’s a double letter.

Moto Guzzi

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Moto Guzzi Moto GOOT-zi
How to pronounce Moto Guzzi

This is an Italian brand of motorcycles. The double-z is pronounced the same as in pizza, another Italian loanword. So it’s Moto GOOT-zi.

Motorrad (as in BMW Motorrad)

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Motorrad motor-RAHD
How to pronounce Motorrad

For years I didn’t know what this meant (is it a motorcycle that’s rad?) until I started learning German, then learned quickly that “Motorrad” in German just means “Motorcycle”!

German has a difficult trilled r sound (from the back of the throat, similar to Dutch and Hebrew, but not similar to Spanish or Italian). The pronunciation of the sound is regional, but anyway, nobody expects you to say that (er… I can’t do it either, despite trying for ages), so just say it like an English soft R.

Nürburgring

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Nürburgring NEWR-burg-ring
How to pronounceNürburgring

The Nürburgring is a famous toll road that’s also a public racetrack.

This word is hard to say in any language! And harder say in English as English doesn’t have the ü. In theory you say that by making an “oo” sound with your lips pursed. An acceptable approximation when speaking English is to say it the way you say “new” (in any accent).

Don’t worry too much about getting it wrong, but the attempt above is better than butchering it, or trailing off… “Nurbrerw… you know”.

Öhlins

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Öhlins euh-LINS or OH-lins
How to pronounceÖhlins

Öhlins is a Swedish manufacturer of suspension parts.

Most people pronounce it OH-lins in English, but to say it in proper Swedish, you’d pronounce the “o” with the umlaut (“ö”) as an euh, and change the emphasis to the last syllable. So it’s more correct to say euh-LINS.

That said, given the minority of Swedish speakers, I think “OH-lins” is OK, unless you meet someone from northern Europe! (Frankly if you say euh-LINS to most non-Europeans people they’d say “what”).

Qianjiang Motor

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Qianjiang chien-jyang
How to pronounceQianjiang

Qianjiang or QJmotor is a Chinese brand of motorcycles gaining prominence. They are based in Zhejiang province and own Benelli, Keeway, and other brands.

Qianjiang Motor comes from the Chinese characters (Hanzi) 钱江摩托, which in the official Pinyin transliteration system is qián jiāng mótuō.

Literally the characters mean “Money River Motors” but don’t read too much into the character “money” as it’s also a surname and a common character in all kinds of companies (which is why every second Chinese store you see has a name like “Golden River Corner Store” or “Red Dragon Smallgoods” etc., it’s almost a naming custom).

Speciale

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Speciale spe-CHA-le
How to pronounceSpeciale

This just means “Special” in Italian. No special prizes for knowing what this means. In Italian the ci is pronounced like “ch” in English.

Spezial

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Spezial shpet-zi-AL
How to pronounceSpezial

This is the German word for “special”. You can find it in option kits for motorcycles like the BMW R nineT.

In German, you usually pronounce “sp” as “shp” in English. I can’t make up my mind whether saying “shpetz-i-AL” is too pretentious sounding. At a minimum say “spetz-i-AL”, but I suspect some European out there will correct you…

Stradale

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Stradale stra-DAh-le
How to pronounceStradale

In Italian, stradale means “pertaining to the strada“, which means “road”. Or a road-going or touring bike.

You can see this in some Italian model names or trademarks like the desmosedici stradale engine or the MV Agusta Stradale.

Superleggera

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Superleggera super-LEJJ-era
How to pronounceSuperleggera

Italian for “super light”. You pronounce superleggera by remembering that the double g after an e is pronounced as “jj”, and where to keep the emphasis.

Here’s one for you to feast your eyes on.

Ducati Superleggera V4
Ducati Superleggera V4

Termignoni

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Termignoni termi-NYO-ni
How to pronounceTermignoni

Another Italian brand, this one of exhaust pipes, pretty popular on Ducati bikes (though also on others).

Key to pronouncing termignoni correctly is that the gn is pronounced like ny, or if you speak Spanish, like ñ. Don’t pronounce a hard g like every other vlogger on YouTube. Send them a link to this article!

Testastretta

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Testastretta testa-STRETT-a
How to pronounce Testastretta

Another Ducati trademark. Not too hard to say, but it trips some people up. The main part I’d not worry about is trilling your r sound, or using Italian affectation.

Some people (speaking English) abbreviate it to just “testa”, which means “head” (you might know it from “Testarossa”, which means “redhead”).

The stretta part means “narrow”. So this refers to a “narrow head” engine.

Zongshen

Official pronunciationNeutral pronunciation
Zōng Shēn dzoong-sheuhn
How to pronounce Zong Shen

Another Chinese brand of motorcycles gaining prominence. Based in Chongqing, China.

The characteres for 宗申 are transliterated zōng shēn in the Pinyin pronunciation system. You read it out like “dzoong sheun”. In Chinese tones are important, but you can get rid of then when speaking english.

The letter “z” trips a lot of people up when reading out Chinese names. It’s a hard “z”.

About me — What the hell do I know?

I’m a native in none of the above languages, so my apologies to the Italians and Chinese people out there. I’m happy to include your recordings if you want to send them!

But I do speak nearly all the above languages fluently (currently 8 languages and counting), plus a few more conversationally. I learned them mostly by living in a lot of places and working really hard (and maybe I have a “knack”, but they all took years, especially Mandarin Chinese.)

So while I don’t know Japanese or Slovenian, I do know a thing or two about those languages and learning languages in general, and don’t find it hard figuring out how to say the words.

Language and culture is one of my other obsessions. I write about those topics on another website, Discover Discomfort.

Anyway, the goal of this article is how do you pronounce the words in an unafected way, while still speaking English.

Hopefully it has been useful.

Similar Posts

3 Comments

  1. I can’t believe you left out the most commonly mispronounced marque ‘Husqvarna’ or Husk-a-varna as so many Philistines insist on saying out there (including my boss of the BMW workshop I work at). 😉😆

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.