• Language: Flemish
  • Short, simplifed guide: de brown-uh (with a very short trill on the ‘r’). Or…

The return of boy-faced wonderFlem Kevin De Bruyne has been warmly greeted in English football. What we haven’t quite settled on, though, is the pronunciation of his surname.

As De Bruyne’s native Dutch/Flemish is full of vaguely-similar-but-not-identical sounds to English, the name has proven tantalisingly out of reach for fans and commentators alike. Fortunately, TLoF is on hand to help…

The easy(ish) part

Let’s start with the ‘r’ of Bruyne. This is like a short version of the Spanish /r/, created by rolling the front of the tongue once against the front of the palate. Think, for example, how a Scottish accent handles the ‘r’ in a word like ‘curd’. This is not easy for some native English speakers, who will opt for the softer ‘r’, not far removed from an /l/ or /w/ sound.

The hardness of this  ‘r’ is subject to regional variation in the low countries, and is often slightly softer in Belgian dialects than in the Netherlands.

The /uy/ sound

With its highly distinctive system of vowel sounds, Dutch is one of Europe’s more unusual tongues.  The /uy/ sound in De Bruyne has no direct comparison in English, making it a slippery customer to pronounce and a tricky one to describe.

The best place to start is a variation of the English /ow/ sound. Think perhaps of a broad Scotsman saying “Kevin The Brown”, or Newcastle natives describing their preferred tipple.

Just like Kuyt

Alternatively, cast your mind back to our helpful guide to pronouncing the surname ‘Kuyt’.

In your best Dutch accent, produce the /ow/ sound but round your lips as if about to blow bubbles through a hoop.”

So far so good, but the tough bit comes with just a hint of /iy/ or /oy/ thrown in at the end, almost as an afterthought. This is made by retracting the mouth after the /ow/ sound and moving straight into the final part of the word.

Keep it subtle

The real trickiness is in finding a way to very subtly introduce this /oy/ sound. In English we have the tendency to overstate it, making Bruyne rhyme with ‘groin’ or ‘loin’ (grow up). In fact it is very subtle; in the above clip the interviewer barely voices it, while when De Bruyne himself says it it is more pronounced. If you can master this, you’re well on the way and can finish with the voiced ‘ne’, pronounced as a short /nuh/.

And there you have it. As ever, though, when stuck your best bet is to take your cues from the man himself.

And finally…

  • Or you could just say it like a Manc
  • In the Netherlands, particles such as de and van take no capital letter, as in Edwin van der SarAs a very general rule, in Flemish-speaking Belgium it is more usual to capitalise particles, so the correct spelling would be Kevin De Bruyne