some statistics about who we are
so lets say 1 out of 3 americans has the proper document with which to consider stepping outside this country. (did you know that rumors have it that over 90% of german citizens have one?) first of all, one has to figure the lion's share of the recent increase in american issuances has been due to new requirements for travel to canada, and canada, as colorful as their money may be, is hardly foreign in the extreme sense of the word. i'm willing to go out on a limb and say you'd be lucky to find 1 out of 5 folks here who have gone overseas, and far fewer than that (1 in 10?) who have actually experienced a foreign culture, as opposed to having simply taken the tour.
so when we fail to properly pronounce place names, or even distinguish between the ethnicity and the religion of the people who live in those places, we're showing our profound ignorance, and we reinforce our culture of profound ignorance whenever we think pretentious anyone who might know better and dare to say so out loud with the proper inflections. one friend of mine from honduras (own-DU-ras) tells the story of being taken to task by his employer for answering an employment application question in the affirmative, that he was of native american descent. well, first of all, to my bigoted american eyes, he certainly appears to have indigenous, as opposed to european, features. but, secondly, and more importantly, and there being no better expert on his ancestry than himself, it would seem to be supremely presumptuous of anyone to label anyone else "hispanic", as opposed to "native american", as if the two were mutually exclusive and we could tell the difference, instead of recognizing that one is a label of language, and the other is a label of genetic heritage. i'd say he, like the rest of us, is certainly allowed to have both. trouble is, to most americans, he's hispanic, whatever that is, and nothing else, while, to himself, he's absolutely not. (think of someone insisting to designate all americans as englishmen and englishwomen, based solely on the coincidence of language and colonial founding over 200 years ago). in the case of honduras and elsewhere, the end result is far too often that we're getting it all wrong, and butchering the name of the country as if to advertise that fact. worse yet, we're prone to think pretentious anyone who would try to remind us how woefully ignorant we remain about it.
i once worked with a woman who was born in germany, and grew up in the us. in many ways, she was culturally both, and yet neither as well. but i always appreciated it when she made good sport of me for screwing up something cultural or linguistic. i WANTED to know that an ausfahrt was not an ausgang, and not to go looking for one when i hoped to find the other. (see, in german, to go out of a place is not as important linguistically as the means by which you exit, and, hence, an exit while driving--fahrt--is quite different from an exit while walking--gang--and eager travelers are best off to know the difference lest they try walking out a fahrt and meet a bus instead, which, at least, is the same in both languages so you could properly tell the medical personnel what it was that had hit you). from her i learned where to find schweinshaxe (at a schlachfest in the oldenwald, natch) and how to order exactly the kind of german beer i liked best. (dunkles, bitte). and i also learned that properly addressing mail to german business associates was an important part of having the contents of the mail considered seriously, which many americans still insist is pretentious of them, but i've come to see it as MY pretention to not respect their culture when i'm wanting to ask them for favors or to accept my ideas. for their part, they have to learn that i want to see the conclusion to their thesis FIRST, and the explanation second. (germans think it rude to try to pursuade someone of something before giving them the respect of your reasons why--go figure--while we tend to think it more rude to withhold the good stuff before boring us with details). the point is not that either of us are right or wrong, but that we need to understand before we can communicate.
own-DU-ras is just the tip of the iceberg.