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Translating names: Do you translate foreign names in your language?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Cracker Jack, Jan 5, 2006.

  1. Cracker Jack Senior Member

    I often wondered why in Spanish magazines and newspapers the names of royalties are always translated and even those of institutions. For example:

    Queen Elizabeth II - Reina Isabel II
    Prince Charles - Principe Carlos
    Prince William - Principe Guillermo
    Princess Stephanie - Princesa Estefania
    Alliance Française - Alianza Francesa
    British Council - Instituto Británico

    However, in English articles, Juan Carlos is never referred to as John Charles or Instituto Cervantes as Cervantes Institute. I just picked up a French magazine and Diana's son is referred to as Prince William. I was expecting it to be Prince Guillaume. But in every French magazine I saw, it was still the same.

    I would like to hear from our Spanish speaking friends from Spain and South America if there is a grammatical rule about these matters. Also from our other foreros, I'd like to know if this practice exists in their language and how the press treats it.

    Personally, I believe that a person's name should be respected and not translated, retained as such. Well, that's just my opinion. Can you please enlighten me on this? Thanks a lot.
  2. Godfather Member

    German, Switzerland
    I think it does exist in every language to a certain point and I have never heard of any grammatical rules about this. In German names like Prince Charles or Prince William are not translated from English. But then again princes from Netherlands or Norway are translated. If it wasn't for the globalization I think names would still be translated in every language. If you look at a famous person who lived hundred of years ago:

    Cristòfor Colom (Catalan)
    Krzysztof Kolumb (Polish)
    Cristóvão Colombo (Portoguese)
    Christoffel Columbus (Dutch)
    Christoph Kolumbus (German)
    Christophe Colomb (French)
    Christopher Columbus (English)
    Cristoforo Colombo (Italian)
  3. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    There is a long tradition, going back to Latin and beyond, of translating foreign names. I think this was, in part, because the locals couldn't pronounce the foreign names properly, and also because ancient inflected languages like Latin and Greek needed familiar word endings, to be able to decline the nouns (thus, Karol became Carolus, Heinrich became Henrichus, etc.) Nowadays, people tend to be more informed about foreign languages and cultures, and Spanish, in particular, no longer declines nouns, but certain social areas are more conservative. I expect that the royalty are conservative in these matters. Also, you can't go back and rewrite all the Spanish history books that call Henry VIII "Enrique VIII".
  4. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    That rule isn't universal in Spain. In fact it is more common not to translate, for example :

    Vladimir Putin (not Vladimiro)
    George Bush (not Jorge)
    Jacques Chirac (not Santiago/Diego/Jaime)

    I don't know what rule applies, maybe it's only for the royalty.
  5. marinax Senior Member

    buenos aires
    español (Argentina)
    that is true. sometimes we translate names, sometimes we dont.
    i agree with NOT TRANSLATING names.
    i always say "you were named Maria by your parents, so Mary is not you!"

    but is also true that we are not able to pronounce some words of foreign languages (russian, arabic, etc).
  6. Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li! Member

    Czech | Czech Republic
    As for Czech, translation of certain names used to be common, but has been receding in favour of original names.

    A 1957 political atlas states that the American revolution was led by Jiří Washington and Tomáš Jefferson. Everyone used to know lightbulbs were invented by Tomáš Alva Edison. The discoverer of America will forever be known as Kryštof Kolumbus. These were exceptions, however, and it was never very common to translate names of people who weren't royalty, saints, or otherwise "exceptional". No-one does it nowadays, at any rate.

    As for royalty and saints, the "rule" seems to be that those who were born before WW2 (approximately) have their names translated (if they have a Czech equivalent), whereas the younger ones do not. There is therefore a paradoxical situation: Queen Alžběta has a son named Charles. Personally, I think this doesn't make any sense; I think we should either continue the tradition and call him Karel, or abandon it altogether and refer to the Queen by her English name (and of course do the same with all the kings and nobles who ever lived, which makes the former option a lot more viable).
  7. Cracker Jack Senior Member

    Thanks a lot for your responses. I initially thought that the translation of names had something to do with nationalism - people just don't seem to be amenable to the idea of using names other than that prescribed by their language. But that was a wrong notion.

    I also thought about the pronunciation stuff. But I wasn't sure. Now that some of you have stated that as a reason, I think that's it. Tekeli, I didn't know that the names of Washington and Jefferson had been translated in your dialect. Aside from saints, the names of the popes, too are being translated. To wit, Benedict, Benedicto, Benoit, etc.
  8. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    We used to have this translations in Arabic too. If you look to old History books (in ALL languages) you'll find that each language presented the names in their own way.
    For example the popes : John, Jean, Yuhanna (in Arabic), Johan....
    Kings : Guillaume (Ghulyum in Arabic)
    Even the names of some cities :
    Venice --> al-bundukeyya
    Austria --> al-nimsa
    Libanon (English) - Liban (frensh) - Lubnan (Arabic)

    The common usage now in Arabic countries is to keep foreign names as they are, just transliterate them in Arabic letters, but when mentioning old popes and kings we use what we've already learned from old historians. (same goes of course for the names of countries and cities, with few exceptions, like Venice which we "call" Venisia).
  9. zebedee

    zebedee Senior Member

    Valencia - Spain
    Gt. Britain - English
    Yes, I've always thought it strange that "Queen Elizabeth II" is translated to "La Reina Isabel II" (when 'Isabel' and 'Elizabeth' are two clearly different names in English) and yet the actress "Elizabeth Taylor", for example, is never translated to "Isabel Taylor".
  10. Roi Marphille

    Roi Marphille Senior Member

    Catalonia, Catalan.
    yes, my friend Cracker Jack,
    this practice is common and it is ridiculous too. I actually hate it!
    I must point however that years ago it was even more common. I think media is tending to solve this little by little, not Royal names but common football players, artists, politicians names...we are going to better, very slow though..
  11. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    Old "translated" names such as Columbus and Copernicus date from the days when Latin was the international language of learning.
    At that time most learning was transmitted from one country to another via Latin, then translated into the local language.

    Some people translated their names as they moved from country to country. The Italian-born composer Giovanni Battista Lulli is far better known as Jean-Baptiste Lully, as he did most of his work in the court of Louis XIV of France. Cardinal Jules Marzarin started life as Giulio Mazarini.

    The coins of the English/UK kings Charles, James, William, Edward and George have Carolvs, Iacobvs, Gvlielmvs, Edwardvs and Georgivs on them, and the coins of queens Ann and Mary have Anna and Maria on them.
  12. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Isabel is not a traditional English name.
  13. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    It has been in common use in the US for centuries. It was common in the 18th and 19th centuries, went out of fashion in the 20th, and has now regained a spot among the 100 most common girls' names.

    It was among the 10 most popular female names in England in the late 16th century. ("english+names"&hl=en)
  14. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  15. alitza

    alitza Senior Member

    Romania, Romanian
    Hi everybody.
    In Romanian we almost never translate proper names, and we pronounce them as close to their original pronunciations as possible. There are exceptions, of course, mostly names of countries and a few city names. However, I have noticed that in other languages not only do they apply the rules of pronunciation of their own language, but even translate them.
    For instance, for Romanians New York is New York (pronounced as in English) whereas for the Spanish it's Nueva York. For us Zurich is Zurich, for the Italians is Zurigo etc.
    Hungarians, for example, even translate writers' names. For them Jules Verne is Verne Gyula, which seems rather odd to me.
    I'd love to know how it is in other languages.
  16. parakseno

    parakseno Senior Member

    Romanian, Romania
    Hello there...

    so far, what I've seen in Greek is that they tend to "translate" every name. That's also because of the alphabet and the way letters are pronounced. For example there isn't a [j] sound (like the one in French and Romanian) in Greek so they have to "translate" the names that include this sound.

    So, some names are "translated phonetically": for "Jules Verne" you have "Ιούλιος Βερν" (Iulios Vern).

    Other names are translated in the real sense of the word. Your example with "New York" would be translated in Greek as "Νέα Υόρκη" (Nea Yorki - "nea" being an adjective which means "new").
  17. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Just to clarify parakseno's post: We translate words like "new" that exist in Greek too and transcribe the rest. In older times we went too far, adding Greek endings and in general messing up the names to the point of making them unrecognisable (example: Descartes became Καρτέσιος Kartessios).

    A note on Jules Verne: Ιούλιος is not a phonetic translation unless you go waaay back to the Roman times when we first transcribed Julius (month and name). From then on the Ιούλιος has been part of the Greek vocabulary.

    As to first names, nowadays we rarely translate them and only in cases of personal acquaintances provided there is a widely used Greek equivalent (for example George Bush is always Τζορτζ Μπους [simple trasncription] but I may call my friend George Γιώργο if he knows Greek and we prefers it that way. A David on the other hand, although we have an equivalent, we'll always remain David.)
  18. Victoria32

    Victoria32 Senior Member

    New Zealand
    English (UK) New Zealand
    By and large, in English, we do not translate names - at least, not the names of people. Places however, yes, we do.. Munchen is Munich, for instance, and there are others.
  19. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  20. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Descartes himself latinized his name as Renatus Cartesius, which is where the adjective "Cartesian" comes from. At the time, it was customary for intellectuals to write in Latin, and they would also adapt their names. Descartes was actually one of the first to break away from the latinist tradition; some of his books were re-edited in French, if I remember well.
  21. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Point acceded Outsider. What do you have to say about poor Βετχοβιανός though (Vethovianos) Beethoven? :D
  22. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Oh, very amusing! :D

    But you did not use standard transliteration. You left me wondering if tau-khi was pronounced like an unvoiced English "th" in modern Greek.
  23. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo moderator

    American English
  24. Woodybaru Member

    hi there, there are certain rules for each grammar but generally you dont translate names, in mexico we can use the real word (name) but giving extra explanation of what it mean...
    I think its much better to use the original than attempt to translate it and fail cause nobody would agree with you.
  25. don maico

    don maico Senior Member

    UK English /Spanish
    Some we do soime we dont- Buenos Aires stays the same as does Madrid and Paris although the French dont pronounce the s, Lima is Lima as is Santiago. Koln ,though, is Cologne and lets not even start with the Polish placenames:eek:
  26. *Giulia* Senior Member

    Italiano / Italia
    In fact, here in Italy we call Renée Descartes as Renato Cartesio. Until Secon World War we used to transalte nouns in Italian, so a lot of famous cities have now an "Italian name": for example London is Londra, Paris is Parigi, Wien becomes Vienna. But New York is New York!
    And Jules Verne is Giulio Verne!
    Anway, now we don't do that anymore, so "new names" are not translated.
    But I know also english people translate Italian cities into English: Venezia is Venice (or Venise for French people), Roma is Rome anf Firenze is Florence. Sicilia becomes Sicily and Italia is Italy.
    I think this is a way to make words more "pronounceble". Jules Verne is more difficult to pronounce for me than Giulio Verne, because of the particular French "r". For example, my grandmother doesn't speak French: if she reads Paris she doesn't know how to pronounce it... she probabily would say Paris with the Italian pronounce.
    What do you think?
  27. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    That's almost 100% the same as in Portuguese, Giulia, except that we don't translate René Descartes, at least not nowadays, and we do translate "New York": Nova York (Brazil), Nova Iorque (Portugal). :)
  28. jazyk Senior Member

    Brno, Česká republika
    Brazílie, portugalština
    I've seen both Nova York (ridiculous, by the way, half Portuguese, half English) and Nova Iorque in Brazil. I only use the latter.
  29. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    Serbian transliterates all proper names, independently of which writing system is used (Latin or Cyrrilic). So Достоевский becomes Достојевски/Dostojevski and Bush Buš/Буш. Or a newspaper might quote it's sorce as "asošiejted pres".
    This makes sure that there will always be a one-to-one correspondance between the two systems.
  30. Heba

    Heba Senior Member

    Coventry, England
    Egypt, Arabic
    Sometimes, we translate proper names of cities into Arabic, sometimes we do not. For Example,New York remains New York ''نيويورك'' and London remains London ''لندن'', but Greece or Hellas is translated as ''Al-Yonan- اليونان'' and England becomes ''ingeltra- انجلترا''.

    We translate the names of the majority of the Spanish cities and regions. For example, Cadiz is ''Qadesh-قادش'', Sevillia ''Ishbelia- أشبيلية'', Zaragoza ''Sarqasta- سرقسطة'', Murcia ''Morseyah- مرسية'', etc. I guess that this has to do with the presence of Muslims and Arabs in Spain hundreds of years ago.

    We rarely translate proper names of persons into Arabic. Exceptions include names of old Greek names like Plato ''Aflaton- افلاطون'' and Socrates ''Soqrat-سقراط ''.
  31. kosicanka New Member

    Slovak - Slovakia
    In Slovakia, we use translated names only for some historical persons, e.g. Henry VIII. is Henrich VIII., Cristoforo Colombo is Krištof Kolumbus.
    Still, female surnames get Slovak suffix -ová, so Marilyn Monroe becomes Marilyn Monroeová... I don't like this rule, I find it pretty unnatural.

    For Slovak names of some cities see Glossary: City_Names_Slavic in Slavic Languages section (I'm not allowed to paste links yet).
  32. coconutpalm

    coconutpalm Senior Member

    Shanghai, China
    Some of the translators choose to translate it. Most of these people lived in the old China.
    Now, we seldom do it, just spell names out as close as possible to their original pronuciation.
    However, for New York, New Jersey, we translate New, but not York or Jersey. for the Great Britain, we translate Great, but not Britain. I think the reason is that New and Great has a definite meaning in Chinese, but if we translate York, Jersey or Britain, the translation can only confuse the audience, as happend in the early 1920s or 1930s translation.
  33. diamania Member

    Dutch, Netherlands
    Somethings are different written then other langauges in dutch.

    Like Den Haag, its The Hague in english.

    and yes we write some names different sometimes like the bicyclist: Viatcheslav Ekimov.
    Some people write it Viatsjeslav Jekimov. But thats more with slavic country names.
  34. TonioMiguel

    TonioMiguel New Member

    English United States of America
    I've noticed in the US and in Mexico that many folks just try to pronounce names as well as they can. Like the golfer Sergio is pronounced Ser-gee-oh. Rather than the proper Ser-hee-o (Spanish). To me, failing to try to pronounce ones last name is quite disappointing. Especially in the US which has always seemed to frown upon people with foreign names. I noticed that foreign names recently are on the rise rather than people taking Americanized names.

    As my profile name TonioMiguel I am very much translating my name in Spanish. I am Anthony Michael but I have grown fond of my Mexican nickname. In Mexico, many people thought it was strange that I went by my Mexican translated name. Movies in Mexico tend to speak the actor names with the best English accent they can. Oddly I do not allow Americans to call me Tony but I love the nickname Tonio or Toño as they say in Mexico.

    As for names, I know not until recently if there was an English equivilent name it was spoken. Like if somebody was Jorge he would be automatically called George. Yet, now it seems that multicultural names are on a boom. This can be easily seen by the rise of African names being used by the African American community and other cultures in general.

    I for one would love to see us call Spain España rather than butchering it with a word that really doesn't sound anything like its original. Same for Deutschland instead Germany since to them they are Deutch not German. Yet, English tends to take after its partial Latin parents by calling everything under a conquered name or Englishized name.
  35. Tsoman Banned

    New York
    English -- US
    In your opinion then, should spanish speakers start changing their 'estados unidos' into 'United States' and change their 'estadounidense' into 'american' because that's what we use?
  36. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I don't know, our most purist posters seem to be Americans. ;)
  37. Riccardino Member

    USA - English
    When studying a foreign language, I insist on being called my name in the version in the other language. I think it sounds better, especially when you say "my name is..." and thats in another language, but you say your name how you would say it in your language, it sounds tacky to me and also throws off flow.

    So I'm Richard in French class, where you don't say the last "d", and Riccardo in Italian class - or Riccardino if I want to convey what I'm called at home by my parents and sisters - Richie. It's funny how when I run into other students outside of class they go "Hey Riccardo whats up".
  38. curly

    curly Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    In Ireland almost none of the place names make any sense whatsoever because most of the original irish place name were changed in spelling and phonetics to sound more english.

    As result we have completely crazy names like malahide (Mullach íde) and hundreds of bally...s, dun...s, and kil...s
  39. maxiogee Banned

    I respectfully disagree with you there, and would query your use of "almost none"!

    Almost all placenames in Ireland make sense still in the Irish. It is the Anglicisations which don't make much sense - but they still meaning carry for the linguist with any knowledge of the Celtic languages — for instance, the Irish abhainn equates directly to the English word "Avon".
    The reason why the Anglicisations don't make much sense is common to many countries where the British Empire renamed places, but that doesn't mean that placenames end up 'meaningless'.
  40. curly

    curly Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    I just think that it would have been nice to leave the irish names, or at least the meaning of them in english, i've noticed a few cool words in languages where the translation provides more insight to the word, mostly because it makes you thik about the origins.

    But hey, i've spent my life diligently ignoring irish lessons.
  41. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    I would add something to this. Most of the foreign names are transcribed, as Beclija already explained. In the past, we used to translate the names of kings and queens (as Spaniards do), but after the WWI, this custom was changed, so now we say Charles (written: Čarls), or Felipe or Juan Carlos (written: Huan Karlos), etc. The only names we still transalte to Serbian version are the names of the popes. Juan Pablo - John-Paul, was in Serbian Jova-Pavle.

    On the other hand, normally, the names of countries are sligtly changed, or they stick to the original, but there are few that are unrecognizable in Serbian.
    Germany - Nemačka
    Wienna - Beč

    The compound names of the states are translated:
    The United State of America - Sjedinjene Američke Države - the USA - SAD
    The Great Britain - Velika Britanija


    London - London
    Paris - Pariz
    Madrid - Madrid
    Geneuve - Ženeva (transcribed the ronunciation in French - sorrz if mz French spelling is wrong. Feel free to correct me)

    I certainly do not supoport the suggestion that one language should now start chenging what is so rooted. If Spanish people call London Londres, or Denmark Dinamarca, then they should continue doing it, because it is the only normal and natural way in Spanish to call those places. Anyway, as far as Deutschland is concerned, I think that nobody in this world calls Germany Deutschland except the very same Germanic speakers.
    It would be ridiculous to force the change at all cost.
  42. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    In German, we usually translate the names of kings and queens, especially historical ones - William the Conquerer becomes Wilhelm (actually, he's Guillaume in French, so "William" is also a translation), and Elizabeth II might be either that or Elisabeth. But, as in Serbian, we don't translate Juan Carlos. Other personal names are rarely translated, although people might refer as "Josef" to some "Josip" informally.
  43. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  44. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    But then, I would say that this thread reflects that in some countries this issue is of rather political nature, and sometimes lacks of logic in favor of "political kerrektness".
    Very sad, indeed.
  45. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I would say that within countries place names often have a political/identitary dimension.
  46. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    I think in some cases it makes sense to use the "politically correct" term. Take Bratislava - it has been officially renamed, used to be called Prešporek in Slovak historically. In that case, calling it "Pressburg" in German other than in historical contexts seems like an anachronism.
  47. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    Correct. And it usually does not have anything to do with its linguistic aspect.

    I feel that I need to clarify: My commentary referred only to the topic of the mentioned thread. No more, no less. I wouldn't dare to comment any other country's situation that I am not familiar with.
  48. )o(Akasha)o( Member

    spanish Spain
    I don't think so, it would just sound strange
  49. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    In Russia, we usually transliterate foreign names. Proper names are always to be transliterated.
    However, the situation with names of cities is more complicated. For example, here are some names of Italian cities and their English and Russian equivalents:
    Roma - Rome - Рим (Rim)
    Torino - Turin - Турин (Turin)
    Milano - Milan - Милан (Milan)
    Venezia - Venice - Венеция (Venetsiya)
    Genova - Genoa - Генуя (Genuya)
    New York is Нью-Йорк in Russian (pronounced almost the same as in American English), but New Zealand, for example, is Новая Зеландия (Novaya Zelandiya). Great Britain is called Великобритания.
    As for the writers' names, they're transliterated, so Jules Verne is called Жюль Верн in Russian. I've never done any French, so I don't know how close the Russian pronunciation od this names is to the original French one. :) The names of English kings, for example, are used in their original form if there's no equivalent of this particular name in Russia: King Richard III is король Ричард III, but King George VI is referred to as король Георг VI.
  50. beclija Senior Member

    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    That would be Richard pronounced as in the original (or as close as you can get with the sounds of Russian) and George as [georg], ge- as in "get" and -org as in "organize". For those who can't read ;)

    Everyone: Do you make attempts to pronounce foreign names "correctly" in your language when there are no equivalent sounds? I don't think I do, not even when I speak the language they are take from and have no problems with the sounds themselves: In a German sentence, I'd most likely say [vošingtn] for Washington, because we don't have the w-sound, although I don't have any trouble pronouncing it in English. Similarly, I would say [sagRep] for Zagreb because we don't differenciate between "s" and "z", have only uvular R and final devoicing. Call it respectless, but I do it also in the other direction: when I say "München" or "Köln" in Serbian or Croatian, it will be [minxen] and [keln] without ü/ö (plus some differences on the "ch" and "l") - again it's not for difficulties in pronounciation, it's my native tongue after all. To me, it sometimes even feels unnatural or even snobbish to pronounce it "correctly" disregarding the phonetics of the language.

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