The response to Obama’s efforts as president has been positive, aides say. Pakistanis have told the White House they appreciate it, and some Afghans have even asked if Obama could start regularly pronouncing Afghanistan in the local way (Af-GAN-nih-ston).

“It sends a signal that he tries to see the world from their perspective,” said former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers, who noted that while some Americans may not like it, “I think he thinks there’s more to be gained than lost by reaching out in this very subtle way.”

Obama also tries when it comes to Spanish. He pronounces Chile as Chee-leh (not chili). He used the Spanish pronunciation of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s name in Trinidad and Tobago.