Nothing is as simple and as complex at the same time as name translation. There are names that exist with the same spelling across most languages—e.g. Peter, David, Andrea—while other, usually traditional, names can be easily translated from and to many different languages—e.g. John (Jean, Jan, Ian), Joseph (Jozef), Stephen (Stefane, Stefan), Matthew (Matthieu, Matus), Natasha (Natasa), or Natalie (Nataly, Natalia).
However, there is category of names which can “live” only within one specific language and culture because they are so connected with that particular community that they do not transfer well across languages. People from other countries have difficulty pronouncing these names, and they are often more complicated to translate.
Name translation is often, in fact, name transliteration. Translating a name from Japanese to English, for example, basically means transliterating the name. Each Japanese character is “converted” to English (or rather Latin) characters, resulting in a name that English speakers can read and pronounce. This is the main purpose of transliteration of names—making them legible for people who do not speak the original language. It concerns mainly non-Latin-based scripts such as Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew and some other languages.
Name translation or transliteration is not usually an exact science. Two plus two equals four does not work here, simply because the non-Latin-based written formats do not use the same “algorithm” of converting spoken language to text. Different languages use different sounds, which might not have equivalents in each other. That is why we encounter slightly different spellings of foreign first and last names transliterated to English, such as Maslov / Masloff, Muhammad / Mohammed, or Lee / Li.
A slightly easier name transliteration process happens when Latin-based scripts are involved. Languages like Slovak, Czech, Polish, Hungarian or German use Latin characters, with some degree of customization to accommodate language-specific nuances (special characters). Name transliteration to English is done by ignoring these special characters and replacing them with their closest pure equivalents, e.g. “š” is replaced by “s”, “è” is replaced by “e” and “ű” is replaced by “u”. This approach works, even though some information is lost in conversion. It can be compared with resizing a graphic image by changing its resolution to a lower number. You will get an image which will be less sharp. The same thing happens with a transliterated name, which would be pronounced slightly differently by target language speakers than in its original spelling in the foreign language.
Name translation for business cards, official documents and IDs
Name translation or name transliteration is a crucial component when translating business cards or official documents and IDs. The most important factor during this process is maintaining consistency with existing documents and IDs in the target language. Before we transliterate your name(s), we will ask you for your preferred spelling as shown in the existing IDs in the target language to avoid spelling inconsistencies that might cause problems, especially when you are submitting documents to government organizations and institutions.
Choose professionals who know how to do it right. The Strategic Languages team will help you with name translation or transliteration from and to any language. We will ask the right questions in order to produce bullet-proof name translations for your business cards and official documents. This is often part of the certified translation services we craft to perfection. Do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your name translation requirements today.