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

SerinusCanaria3075

Senior Member
México, D.F. (Spanish)
In some languages, it can be odd that what is considered to be a female name is given to a male person.
Italian: Andrea
Spanish: Andrés
Since Italian names usually don't end with -s, it sometimes sounds weird to hear Gonzales, Martinez or Rodriguez in Italian.
Ignazio, Luigi, Paolo, Carlo, Giani, Cesare, Letizia, Margherita...
Ignacio, Luis, Pablo, Carlos, Juan, César, Leticia, Margarita...
 
  • mally pense

    Senior Member
    England, UK English
    There's no need for confusion here though. Most English people in my experience recognise the French "Jean" as just that, the FRENCH "Jean", and will not even make a connection with the English "Jean".
     

    stanley

    Senior Member
    Germany / German
    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.
    Well, in Germany we call Spain - Spanien. So it's pretty much the same. But I don't have a problem with Americans using German instead of Deutsch and Germany instead of Deutschland, because the people of Germany are called "Germanen" ( Engl. Germans ). So where's the Problem. Venice is called Venedig and there are many more expressions like Milano which the germans call Mailand.
     

    federicoft

    Senior Member
    Italian
    In Italian we translate pretty all country names (except those whose name sounds Italian enough, e.g. 'Argentina') and large or somewhat important European cities (some exceptions being Oslo, Helsinki and Madrid), I believe mainly due to historical reasons. There are some weird translation, for example the Polish city of Wroclaw in Italian is called Breslavia; the Greek city of Thessaloniki is called Salonicco.

    Usually we translate also geographical names (such as Rocky Mountains that become 'Montagne Rocciose').
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Rio de Janeiro is a noun in my language [...]
    Semantics. I think it's pretty clear that Macunaíma's question was about whether the name had been changed by other languages as they borrowed it from Portuguese. English hasn't changed the spelling, though of course the pronunciation is another story.
     

    pericales

    New Member
    Spain
    I know this discussion dates from ages ago but... I just wanted to say that there is a cultural reason behind all this argument.

    When a Christian is proclamed a Saint, he/she becomes a universal property, and so does his/her name. So, if you want to name somebody out of Teresa de Ávila, you will name her Theresa (English), Thérèse (French), etc. You will not name an Englishman called Peter: Petrus (the Latin name for Peter), or even Keyfas (his original name in Aramaic), you will call him Peter.

    Translation of Catholic names is a perfectly documented tradition, and it's a must.
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Writing Владимир Владимирович Путин in an French (or English or Spanish) newspaper would make it very difficult to read.
    Therefore translation of names are needed.
    In the same way, some languages may have very different pronunciations for a same word (a word with the same spelling). Should we choose to respect the spelling of the name or its pronunciation? We can't have both.
    Yes, but in some cases, like replacing William with Guillermo, it can be totally confusing. If my name were William, I would feel alienated having my name written as Guillermo.

    And replacing Elizabeth with Isabel is quite ridiculous because:
    1. In English both names exist separately
    2. Most Spaniards won't have any problem pronouncing Elizabeth, even if it is in a Spanish way.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Yes, but in some cases, like replacing William with Guillermo, it can be totally confusing. If my name were William, I would feel alienated having my name written as Guillermo.
    It's not confuding at all when you're used to it. I bet most Spanish speakers would be more confused if you mentioned "William of Orange" to them.

    And replacing Elizabeth with Isabel is quite ridiculous because:
    1. In English both names exist separately
    2. Most Spaniards won't have any problem pronouncing Elizabeth, even if it is in a Spanish way.
    But the two words are cognates, and in Spanish there is only one. "Elizabeth" is not Spanish.
     

    mal67

    Senior Member
    US - English
    But the two words are cognates, and in Spanish there is only one. "Elizabeth" is not Spanish.
    I don't buy that argument. Michael and Miguel are both cognates from the biblical Hebrew, but I don't like to be called "Miguel" when I'm speaking Spanish; and Spanish-speakers are capable of pronouncing "Michael" just fine (well, ok, the vowels are usually off, but still). Likewise, I'm not going to call my mother-in-law "Mary Beth" or something of that sort.

    Of course, since I'm not royalty, I don't have to worry about it -- as it seems that Spanish generally translates only the names of European royalty.
     

    Viperski

    Member
    Poland polish
    Here are some examples of translation into Polish for european well know cities:
    Bremmen - Brema
    Basel - Bazylea
    Munich - Monachium
    Milano - Mediolan
    Roma - Rzym
    Those are used since medieval time.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Interesting!
    Brema is the same as the Italian;
    Basel in Italian is Basilea;
    Monachium must surely be Latin;
    Mediolanum is definitely the Latin name for Milan.

    A strange case is the adoption in English of the Italian names Vienna and Austria.
     

    Viperski

    Member
    Poland polish
    Interesting!
    Brema is the same as the Italian;
    Basel in Italian is Basilea;
    Monachium must surely be Latin;
    Mediolanum is definitely the Latin name for Milan.

    A strange case is the adoption in English of the Italian names Vienna and Austria.
    I think adoption is made when in certain lenguage it's difficult to pronaunce its original name. Munik (with u omlaut) is more difficult then Monachium (Latin version). Some very old european towns names were changed hundreds years ago a little bit "closer" to polish lenguage, especially those cities of which medieval Poles kept close contacts to (mostly universities or art centries):
    Padwa - Padova
    Bolonia - Bologne
    We call Vienna - Wiedeń
    Before University in Kraków (Cracovia) was created (1364) Padova and Bologne were "the most popular" (becouse they were the best at that time).
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Then I guess English must have got it from Italian. A little odd, since Italian was not commonly spoken in Austria...
     

    alexacohen

    Banned
    Spanish. Spain
    And replacing Elizabeth with Isabel is quite ridiculous because:
    1. In English both names exist separately
    2. Most Spaniards won't have any problem pronouncing Elizabeth, even if it is in a Spanish way.
    Maybe.
    I have heard many times people saying king "Yuan", which to Spanish ears sounds like the name of a Chinese restaurant.
    Lady Di, which was kept exactly as is written in English, ended up here as "ladidí", commonly used for female dogs.
    Better translated than ridiculous.
    Seville, Canary Islands, Majorca, Saint Jacques de Compostelle...
    It runs both ways.
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Maybe.
    I have heard many times people saying king "Yuan", which to Spanish ears sounds like the name of a Chinese restaurant.
    Lady Di, which was kept exactly as is written in English, ended up here as "ladidí", commonly used for female dogs.
    Better translated than ridiculous.
    Seville, Canary Islands, Majorca, Saint Jacques de Compostelle...
    It runs both ways.
    At least in the case of Elizabeth it doesn't sound ridiculous at all pronouncing it as Elithabet.
    If the name Isabel didn't exist in English it would be less weird translating Elizabeth.
    Imagine two noble English ladies, one named Elizabeth, the other Isabel, end up having the same name in Spanish. :rolleyes:
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    I don't buy that argument. Michael and Miguel are both cognates from the biblical Hebrew, but I don't like to be called "Miguel" when I'm speaking Spanish; and Spanish-speakers are capable of pronouncing "Michael" just fine (well, ok, the vowels are usually off, but still). Likewise, I'm not going to call my mother-in-law "Mary Beth" or something of that sort.
    What is your mother-in-law's real name then?
    Maribel (following the comparison Elizabeth ---> Isabel)?
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Will Spanish now also have to invent separate names for:

    Elisabeth
    Eliza
    Elyse
    Bessie
    Beth
    Betsy
    Betty
    Isobel
    Lisa
    Liz
    Liza
    Lizzy
    Lyse
    ...just because English did?

    This name came up earlier in the thread.
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Will Spanish now also have to invent separate names for:

    Elisabeth​
    Eliza​
    Elyse​
    Bessie​
    Beth​
    Betsy​
    Betty​
    Isobel​
    Lisa​
    Liz​
    Liza​
    Lizzy​
    Lyse​
    ...just because English did?

    This name came up earlier in the thread.
    Yes. Don't you think it's unfair for them to be thrown into Isabel in Spanish? They are individuals for God's sake! Their parents deliberately named them the way they are. Beth is not the same as Liza nor Isabel.
    Name is not just a name. It contains much more meaning than that.
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    I personally just try to respect people's names, because they have their peculiar individual backgrounds and meanings.

    The different names are a result of centuries of development, in which a single name perhaps split into variations which today should be recognized as such, because each has its own history and reasons behind its emergence.

    Perhaps in the time of Shakespeare they were variations of the same name, but we should not be oblivious to today's situation.
     

    Nanon

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    I don't buy that argument. Michael and Miguel are both cognates from the biblical Hebrew, but I don't like to be called "Miguel" when I'm speaking Spanish; and Spanish-speakers are capable of pronouncing "Michael" just fine (well, ok, the vowels are usually off, but still). Likewise, I'm not going to call my mother-in-law "Mary Beth" or something of that sort.

    Of course, since I'm not royalty, I don't have to worry about it -- as it seems that Spanish generally translates only the names of European royalty.
    Well, I'm not royalty either, but I'm used to having my name translated and I don't really mind. In fact I basically have two versions of my name, Anne / Ana. Both forms are used in my family according to who is speaking: French speakers or Spanish speakers. I did not choose this (the only choice was the choice of the name and it was obviously not mine but my parents'), but the habit got crystallised and I just got used to it. Probably the monosyllabic French version sounds too short and harsh to the Spanish-speaking part of my family.

    But my name is translated in other languages too. Anne works pretty well in English, so who knows whether it is translated or not? The Russian version of my name, Анна / Anna, is used by my Russian friends and contacts. It probably sounds more natural to them. And in Brazil I am called Anne but it is pronounced with a ending. This is because I often travel to Brazil on business, with my French travel documents and my French visit card, otherwise the form Ana could as well have been adopted in Portuguese.

    I do not disagree with having my name translated. But again, this is because I am already used to it, because my name is short, and because it exists in many languages. This has to do only with me. I know other persons who consider that the form of the name, and not only the name itself, has to do with one's own integrity.

    However I, like everybody, have limits. I can feel "identified" with the above forms. But when I heard my name pronounced with a strong nasal twang in English-US, I did not feel the same - or at least, not at once. After all, I'm not royalty. Only kings and queens need to be universal...
     

    DiabloScott

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Writing (Vladymir Vladimirovich Putin) in an French (or English or Spanish) newspaper would make it very difficult to read.
    Therefore translation of names are needed.
    That's simply transliteration; an interesting but different topic.

    Another interesting example is declination of female names: Anna Karenin or Anna Karenina? When she says her name it is Karenina but English doesn't use noun declination and some would contend her name should be Karenin.

    Mathematicians familiar with Russian sometimes argue this concerning the Cauchy-Kovalevskaya (or Kovalevsky) Theorem.
     

    mal67

    Senior Member
    US - English
    Will Spanish now also have to invent separate names for:
    Elisabeth
    Eliza
    Elyse
    Bessie
    Beth...​
    Why not just use the names as they are, without translation?

    In fact, this may already be happening (?): I seem to remember a finalist on Operación Triunfo a few years ago who was called Beth. I was surprised to hear that name used in Spain, though I'm not sure if it was a nickname or was the contestant's real given name.
     

    pickypuck

    Senior Member
    Extremaduran Spanish
    In fact, this may already be happening (?): I seem to remember a finalist on Operación Triunfo a few years ago who was called Beth. I was surprised to hear that name used in Spain, though I'm not sure if it was a nickname or was the contestant's real given name.
    Her real name is Elisabeth. It's not so surprising, since you can find any name in Spain nowadays. One of my mates at school was called Elisabeth too (or Elisabet without the h, I can't remember, many years have passed since I attended school). Many times it depends on trends. Kevin became a very popular name here, maybe because of "The Wonder Years" (Aquellos maravillosos años) series.

    This has nothing to do with the tradition of translating into Spanish or the other languages of Spain the names of the royals.

    Regards.
     

    Fernando

    Senior Member
    Spain, Spanish
    You have two options:

    1) Translate them as "Isabel" or

    2) Hear YOUR name mispronounced as

    Elisabeth /Elísabet/
    Eliza /Elíza/ or /Elísa/
    Elyse No idea ¿ilais? ¿elís? ¿elis?
    Bessie /besi/
    Beth /bez/ or /bet/
    Betsy /Betsi/ I assume
    Betty betti (I think quite similar to English)
    Isobel ¿isobel? ¿aisobel?
    Lisa ¿lisa? ¿laisa?
    Liz ¿lis?
    Liza ¿lisa? ¿laisa?
    Lizzy ¿lisi?
    Lyse ¿¿¿lais????

    Note the pronunciation is not API.
    z=English th as in thunder
    Spanish vowels are always long.
     

    ByteofKnowledge

    New Member
    UK-en
    Reminds me of my time in Bavaria, where I worked in McDonald's. I had them put "MAIKL" on my name badge instead of "MICHAEL" because otherwise people would call me "Mi-ha-el" or "Mi-sha-el" depending on their German accent, and that isn't my name. A name is something you are CALLED, it is VOCAL. So I like transliterating names into another language if necessary. From Russian to a Latin script is of course necessary. But why not do the same within Latin alphabet languages? Peter Schmeichel as Peter Shmikel in English and Szmajkel in Polish?
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    You have two options:

    1) Translate them as "Isabel" or

    2) Hear YOUR name mispronounced as

    Elisabeth /Elísabet/
    Eliza /Elíza/ or /Elísa/
    Elyse No idea ¿ilais? ¿elís? ¿elis?
    Bessie /besi/
    Beth /bez/ or /bet/
    Betsy /Betsi/ I assume
    Betty betti (I think quite similar to English)
    Isobel ¿isobel? ¿aisobel?
    Lisa ¿lisa? ¿laisa?
    Liz ¿lis?
    Liza ¿lisa? ¿laisa?
    Lizzy ¿lisi?
    Lyse ¿¿¿lais????

    Note the pronunciation is not API.
    z=English th as in thunder
    Spanish vowels are always long.
    You just need to tell them how the name is pronounced.
    The Spaniards are not that stupid that they couldn't pronounce things right. Or at least approximately.

    If my name were Eliza, I'd rather have it pronounced as Elitha than have it mutated into Isabel which not only sounds/looks totally different from my real name, but other people actually have that as their real name.
     

    kardorion

    Senior Member
    Bilingual: English (UK)-Turkish
    In Turkish we nearly never translate names unless they have some ancient equivalents.
    We always translate Alexander (İskender) and as stated above, biblical names.
    Jesus - İsa,
    Mary - Meryem
    John the Evangelist - Yuhanna
    John the Baptist - Yahya
    Abraham - İbrahim etc.
    For Peter, Paul, Mark, Luke we use the Latin names (Petrus, Pavlus, Marcus, Luca).
    As far as I know, the Turkish translations are usually closer to the originals than English and Latin languages.
    Otherwise, we never translate modern names or names of kings and queens etc..
    So for us Elisabeth is Elisabeth (you might see it written Elizabet so that it's easy to read) and Isabel is Isabel, Charles is Charles etc.

    I just thougt of one more translation:
    Charlemagne - Şarlamanj or Şarlman (we actually just write it as we read it, that's all)

    The Latin alphabet was chosen in The Republic of Turkey in 1928, therefore in Turkish we still read as we write (can't remember what you called these kinds of languages). There are still discussions about whether we should write these foreign names as we read them, or not. In press you always see the original versions of names (except for the ones I stated above).
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    In Turkish we nearly never translate names unless they have some ancient equivalents.
    We always translate Alexander (İskender) and as stated above, biblical names.
    Jesus - İsa,
    Mary - Meryem
    John the Evangelist - Yuhanna
    John the Baptist - Yahya
    Abraham - İbrahim etc.
    For Peter, Paul, Mark, Luke we use the Latin names (Petrus, Pavlus, Marcus, Luca).
    As far as I know, the Turkish translations are usually closer to the originals than English and Latin languages.
    Otherwise, we never translate modern names or names of kings and queens etc..
    So for us Elisabeth is Elisabeth (you might see it written Elizabet so that it's easy to read) and Isabel is Isabel, Charles is Charles etc.

    I just thougt of one more translation:
    Charlemagne - Şarlamanj or Şarlman (we actually just write it as we read it, that's all)

    The Latin alphabet was chosen in The Republic of Turkey in 1928, therefore in Turkish we still read as we write (can't remember what you called these kinds of languages). There are still discussions about whether we should write these foreign names as we read them, or not. In press you always see the original versions of names (except for the ones I stated above).
    In Indonesian we also have the names you mentioned, but if there is a person living today named John or Mary, we don't change their name. In fact, the other versions of the name are mostly used only in the Bible, and in Indonesia there are individuals named Maria and some others Miryam, just as there are ones named Yohanes, others Yan, others Yahya. But they are of course not interchangeable.
    But I think the original question goes to Spanish speaking countries. So we probably should stop talking about other countries. ;)

    Cheers!


    MarK
     
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