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Do you change the spelling or pronunciation of your name when communicating with your friends abroad?

There are many first names which exist in one or more languages, though their spelling and pronunciation may be different. It is very common among European languages, because of their common roots, religion, migration of people.

When I introduce myself in a foreign language, I usually say something like 'My name is Marcin. But it's the same like Martin in your language, so you can call me the way you prefer.' Many times I had been surprised by the declaration like: 'Oh no! We will call you by your proper name, exactly as it is!'
And here is where the fun begins, because it's not difficult to switch between 't' and 'c' while writing, but the pronunciation may be the real challenge. This 'c' is very soft in my language, because of the letter 'i' following it (this sound is written like 'ć' when not followed by 'i'). And in the end they pronounce it according to their language's rules - mostly like 'Marsin'.

And what are your opinions? Should we stick to the original pronunciation, even when speaking a different language? Or should we be more flexible about that?
Of course I don't mean official situations when the name must be written exactly as in documents... And the literature (I've read in one of Italki discussions recently about 'Piotr' who became 'Pedro' in Spanish translation of the book).

Mar 9, 2018 12:11 PM
Comments · 16

Although "Sarah" is a simple name and pretty common around the world, it is not obviously not pronounced the same in every language.  I used to volunteer teaching ESL to Latino immigrants.  And they would pronounce my name the Spanish way.  It never bothered me and I never corrected them. I would try to teach them the American pronunciation if they wanted, but never pushed it.  As an Italki tutor, I've also heard various versions of my name.  Once again, no big deal.  I joke that I'll answer to any name as long as it's close.  

But, I do my best to pronounce a person's name correctly, as they like it to be pronounced.  I always feel a little sad for people who feel like they have to Americanize their name for us.  But, I can also understand why they just gave up having us try to pronounce it correctly; it must be frustrating.  

March 9, 2018

Marcin: Oh, there are Ksenia's in Poland, too? Nice to hear that. And yes, I agree that it's easier to use Russian-Polish transcription patterns than Russian-English-Polish ones. For example, as far as I know, "sz" is just "ш", "cz" is pronounced like something like "тш" or "ч", etc., so there's no need to reinvent the wheel, and I suppose there are many other similarities...

Phil: Yes, I know, but it's not their fault (well... not entirely). What are the rules of romanisation? No one really knows. We don't use both Cyrillic and Latin scripts in our everyday life, as people do it in some other Slavic countries. For foreign passports, it's "letter-for-letter" now, i.e. simple transliteration. It used to be more like transcription before. So it's pretty normal that your foreign passport says one thing, your bank card says another, and your e-mail address shows your own attempt to invent an alternative way of romanisation. Only Cyrillic script is considered absolutely "correct", so to speak, so many people don't care about consistency too much. At least, not until an airline representative says something like, "We're terribly sorry, but we cannot make a refund. Unfortunately, the passenger's name doesn't match the cardholder's name".

March 9, 2018

Kseniia, your name would be Ksenia here (though is not very popular). And it's transliteration according to our language rules would be probably Ksenija or Ksjenija. As Phil said, sometimes people use the romanization rules different to the official ones. If I tried to instruct Polish person how to pronounce Russian words, I would use Polish rules, because our languages are more similar to each other then English to any of them.
And about 'equivalents'... Nowadays it's maybe not so important, but most names in my country and in a few other countries were given after the names of saints. So if my is given after the bishop of the French town called Tours, why not to treat it as the Polish version of more international name. Of course there are many names typical to one nation only or to a few related languages (like 'Vladimir' is 'Włodzimierz' here).
P.S. I don't mean literally that I have been called after bishop (it wasn't even in my parents' minds). It's rather about the most probable source of this name in my country. ;-)

And Phil, I happened to be called 'Martian' once in an online chat. I didn't dare to ask if the person just made a mistake or she considered me someone from the other planet.

March 9, 2018
Thanks for that recording, Marcin. Your English version is perfect, although it would be extremely unusual to actually hear a native English speaker use the full pronunciation of both the R and the T at conversational speed. (On the other hand, people do tend to be overly careful when recording.) I suppose the C is closer to the English CH than a T. Better hope that nobody pronounces it “Martian” ;)

There are issues caused by phonological differences, and then there are issues caused by unfamiliar spelling (like Guyomar). These are entirely different. With my name, some people try to pronounce the PH as P + H, which can easily be corrected. On the other hand, I don’t expect anybody to violate phonological rules of the language we’re speaking just to get my name “right.” For example, even if a French speaker wanted to pronounce my name “Philip,” it’s going to sound just like “Philippe” when speaking French. And if he calls me “Phil,” it will sound like “feel” (if we’re speaking French). No big deal. (Actually, in the southeastern US, there is the fill-feel merger. I certainly won’t “correct” an American from the South.)

As far as the English pronunciation of “Sarah,” the key points would be to use the correct R sound, and a schwa in the second syllable. 

As for the vowel in the first syllable, it varies like crazy in American English, depending on the local state of the Mary–marry–merry merger. You might as well just say it in Spanish — lots of Americans wouldn’t even notice. (That’s how it used to be pronounced in English anyhow.)–marry–merry_merger

K: As far as Russian names, my students often use different romanizations on their italki, Skype, and email accounts. It can be confusing.
March 9, 2018
I understand where your frustration comes from. the “c” in “Marcin” is a sound that does not exist in English — it’s actually between the CH in the English word “chin” and the T in “tin.” It seems to me that this wouldn’t even be an issue in (for example) Czech or Ukrainian, where your name is spelled with a T (or Cyrillic equivalent Мартін). English speakers have good intentions when they tell you they’re happy to pronounce your name as in Polish, but if they’ve never studied your language (and perhaps even if they have…), they absolutely cannot. I imagine that to your ear, it makes little difference if they end your name with “chin” or “tin.” Even if they do somehow get the correct pronunciation of the unvoiced, unaspirated palatal affricate, do we really expect them to pronounce the R as in Polish? While speaking English? At the end of a syllable? So, If my friend Robert is Scottish, should I roll the R when I say his name?

Here’s a related question: If you are *speaking Polish* with an English speaker named “Martin,” is it OK for you to say /martçin/ or /martɪ̈n/, or do you have to say /mɑː(ɹ)ʔən/ like most native English speakers do?

That being said, Marcin, I would pronounce your name as you do — but I’m a bit weird ;)
March 9, 2018
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Language Skills
English, German, Italian, Other, Polish, Russian, Spanish
Learning Language
English, Spanish