How are Japanese names pronounced?

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by Anatoli, May 6, 2008.

  1. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English

    In the above Japanese thread we discussed the reverse: Chinese names pronounced in Japanese.

    Although the Chinese pronunciation of the Japanese names looks more straightforward, need to use the Chinese reading of a character to find out how a this name is pronounced but there are some nuances.

    First of all, if the name is borrowed in characters, the pronunciation is usually unrecogniseable:

    秋田 Qiūtián Akita
    青森 Qīngsēn Aomori
    福岛 / 福島] Fúdǎo 福島 Fukushima
    山形 Shānxíng Yamagata
    東京 Dōngjīng Tōkyō
    京都 Jīngdū Kyōto
    大坂 / 大阪 Dàbǎn Ōsaka 大阪 (Japanese)
    神户 / 神戶 Shénhù Kōbe 神戸 (Japanese)

    To my comment: "Suzuki-san" (鈴木さん) when he arrives in China becomes "Lingmu xiansheng"

    Mugi says:
    How common is this - using romanisation to render foreign names in general and Japanese in particular, both in China in Taiwan? I think, it's a little bit more common in Taiwan than in mainland China.
    Some Japanese company names, like Sony are always written in Roman letters, which seems to be the case in China as well.

    (compare to another example with programming languages: in the ads they write Java but I also saw 爪哇 Zhuǎwā.)

    Mazda: 松田 Sōngtián (Matsuda) or 马自达 Mǎzìdá
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 29, 2014
    : proper names
  2. avlee

    avlee Senior Member

    Suzhou, China
    Chinese - P.R.C.
    Taiwan used to be a colony of Japan for 50 years (correct me if the figure is wrong). There's no wonder why some Taiwanese may call Japanese names in Japanese language.
    In mainland of China, it's very natural to call the Japanese name according to Chinese pronounciation since to most Chinese people these are simply Chinese characters.
  3. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    There are 3 methods, in this order of frequency:

    1. The most common method. Copy Japanese characters verbatim, read them the Chinese way. Some changes may happen when a Japanese version of a character is used. 広 (Japanese specific) -> 广 (simplified) or 廣 (traditional). The choice depends of S/T where you are.
    Sometimes names may be usually written in Kana (仮名) only but the original Kanji (漢字) spelling may still be known, more work is required to render these words in Chinese. If a name has a meaning, it's preserved but not the original sound.

    2. Render the names phonetically, ignore the original characters, find characters matching in pronunciation. There is no other method, if the Japanese word is never written in Kanji. See 松田 (マツダ) (Matsuda) -> 马自达 or 馬自達. The name of the original owner is preserved 松田 (Sōngtián) in Hanzi but the company name is rendered phonetically (Mazda-> Mǎzìdá).

    3. Leave the romanised version - Sony, Java (not Japanese but a good example). More common with some Western names and more common in Taiwan than in mainland China, as described above sometimes used for Japanese names to preserve pronunciation. This method is not too common but has been used more frequently in the last few years even in China. Australian Chinese newspapers always provide the original spelling, at least in brackets, as an addition to make sure there is no ambiguity.

    Perhaps for Japanese names, it's worth doing the same: 渡辺健 (Watanabe Ken), note another conversion of "辺" character: 渡边谦/ 渡邊謙, although his name is usually pronounced Dùbiān Qiān in Chinese (using the 1st method).
    Last edited: May 7, 2008
  4. avlee

    avlee Senior Member

    Suzhou, China
    Chinese - P.R.C.
    I agree with you on method 1. For methods 2 and 3, the background of these two cases tells me that it's mainly for creating business attractions/brand awareness. Hence, I'd rather classify them as exceptions.
    You may raise more supporting evidence for methods 2 and 3. I encourage you to check the motives/purposes for doing those sorts of translation first if possible.
    Sony's origin tells me that the founder wanted to create a world-class brand. So they chose Sony as their brandname which's also known as 索尼 in mainland of China. To most Chinese, 马自达 is merely a name of Japanese brand. People rarely take it as a name of Japanese people (Now I know its original word is de facto 松田 according to your troduction). My vague memory tells me it is a brand of vehicle (perhaps motorcycle or auto).
    Waiting for more comments from native Chinese speakers to render something different.
    Last edited: May 7, 2008
  5. samanthalee

    samanthalee Senior Member

    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    In Singapore, we usually read Japanese characters the Chinese way (Method#1). Eg. Honda 本田, Toyota 丰田, Daimaru 大丸,Muji 无印良品.

    But exceptions happens and it can be rather complicated.

    Method#2 (Phonetic)
    Mazda is known as 万事达 (Mazda, like Sony is not a Japanese word.)

    Method#3 (Romaji)
    was known as 十合 until a branding effort turns it into Romaji Sogo (I never understand how it became 崇光 in China and Hong Kong)

    Method#4 (Taking an associated Japanese name and apply Method#1)
    Panasonic is known as 松下 (Matsushita, the company who owns the Panasonic brand.)
  6. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Thanks, guys.

    无印良品 (Wúyìn Liángpǐn) has the full name in Japanese 無印良品 Mujirushi Ryōhin

    As for 万事达, the name was created in Hong Kong. 马自达 / 馬自達 are more popular in China/Taiwan.

    As for methods #2 and #3:
    2. I have to bring up more words, which don't have a writing in Kanji. There are some city names in both Japan and Korea. (Korean name usage in China is similar to Japanese in China). Most notably - 首尔 / 首爾 Shǒu'ěr - Seoul.

    More phonetic borrowings from Japanese in Taiwan Mandarin, not names:
    歐吉桑 (ōujísāng) 叔父さん (ojisan) uncle
    歐巴桑 (ōubāsāng) 叔母さん (obasan) auntie
    Karaoke: カラオケ - 卡拉OK. The first part 空 (kara) has the meaning of "empty", "oke" stands for "orchestra"

    3.Will be quite a list if we include company names, brand names, programming languages. Not only Japanese, though.
    Last edited: May 7, 2008
  7. samanthalee

    samanthalee Senior Member

    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    At the risk of being off-topic, I have to point out that Seoul was known to the Chinese as Han Cheng (漢城: Hansung, Old name of Seoul. Method#4 using associated name) until 2005 when the Korean government requested that the Chinese use 首尔 (Method#2 Phonetic) to refer to it.
    Last edited: May 8, 2008
  8. avlee

    avlee Senior Member

    Suzhou, China
    Chinese - P.R.C.
    No wonder I often hear 首尔 so often these years. And I thought it might be a city nearby Seoul. Now I understand that's just a surrogate of 汉城 due to different translation styles. They're exactly the same thing.
    Another thing is that I just asked an old native Taiwanese who is over 55 years old about the method they're using to pronounce Japanese names. The answer is method #1. He also told me Japanese language is not so popular in Taiwan as we expected to be. The generations above his know some Japanese just due to that long-term colony period. Now at least since his generation, they behave nearly the same as mainlanders do toward Japanese culture.  
  9. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Samanthalee, for me it's fine and to the point. Yes, I know about 漢城 /汉城 (Hànchéng in standard Mandarin).

    Avlee, the Japanese culture is still very popular in Taiwan. For example, there are some Japanese manga (漫画) based on which movies were created in Taiwan but not in Japan. Japanese manga are perhaps more popular in Taiwan than in Japan and are consistently being translated.

    Some names from manga fall into both one and two, it's when Japanese and Chinese are pronounced somewhat similarly. It's usually the case when the Japanese characters are read using 音読み (ON-yomi - borrowed from China), not 訓読み ( (KUN-yomi - native Japanese). For example: 東京 (Tōkyō Dōngjīng), although different, there is some similarity

    道明寺 (Dōmyōji (J.)- Dào Míng Sì (C)) - a character in TV series "Meteor Garden" (流行花园 Taiwan), "Boys over Flowers" (花より男子 Japan). (I enjoyed the Japanese version much more than the Taiwanese but I haven't finished the Taiwanese and it was created before the Japanese version based on a J. manga).

    I have a question regarding this name - 道明寺. Is it regarded as surname (道) + first name (明寺) in Chinese? In Japanese, it's a long surname. The first name is 司 (Tsukasa, obviously a KUN-yomi).

    Of course, mainlanders and Taiwanese should have much more in common. I am glad there are some signs of improvement in the inter-straight communication.
    Last edited: May 8, 2008
  10. avlee

    avlee Senior Member

    Suzhou, China
    Chinese - P.R.C.
    Yeah, Chinese people normally regard 道明寺 as surname (道) + first name (明寺). But to me, somehow it looks like a typical name of a temple.
  11. Mugi Senior Member

    NZ English
    Presumeably you meant 謙 instead of 健
  12. kareno999 Senior Member

    Columbus, OH
    Presumably you meant "Presumably" instead of "Presumeably". :D ;)
  13. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English

    Yes, that's right. Not sure how I got the last character wrong.
  14. Ghabi

    Ghabi Moderator

    Hong Kong
    I always hope that someone would start a campaign that Japanese names are to be transliterated according to how they're actually pronounced in Japanese. I'm still waiting. And I know I can wait till kingdom come.:(
  15. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    English (UK)
    Keep wating dear friend! :), since to do as you suggested it's necessary to know how names are pronounced in Japanese in the first place. Just in case you're interested, there are not a few cases where even Japanese people don't know how a Japanese name is read.
  16. Ghabi

    Ghabi Moderator

    Hong Kong
    That's hardly an excuse for pronouncing, say, suzuki as ling2mu4! I mean one can't even recognize his own name when people call him, and that's too bad.:eek:
  17. viajero_canjeado Senior Member

    English - Southeastern USA
    Now that you mention it, I can see how disregarding one's native Japanese pronunciation in favor of the Chinese, especially taking into account the massive divergence between the two languages, might come across as egocentric or culturally inept. Not that I encounter many Japanese folks these days, but I'll be sure to keep that in mind for the future.

    On a final note, if you're still waiting for a campaign to materialize out of thin air, remember Gandhi's words of wisdom: be the change you want to see in the world. ;)
  18. love chinese New Member

    We live in the global village, I'd like to see comments from Japanese perspective. Do they wish to be addressed as Mr. suzuki or 铃木先生,or suzuki さん ?

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