Friday, February 25, 2011

Automatic Name Translation

I was listening to CatMusica on the way to drop off the kids and was quite amused when the announcer said the next piece was written by Handel for the coronation of “El Rei Jordi II d’Anglaterra”.

I find it funny how in Spain there is this urge to translate names into the language you are speaking. This is definitely not the case in other countries like Germany. If you watch a movie dubbed in German, you will notice that the English names stay English and are pronounced the English way (as best they can). It can make for very stilted dialog.

There is a positive side to this all for me in particular, since my name last name got changed when my parents moved to North America. The end result has been a genuine mess where some things here are in one name and others are in another, depending on which of my collection of passports I used to register. Hardly anyone here has cared about the inconsistency, and the one time someone was complaining, I said “Oh that’s how you spell my name in English” and they were ok with that.

On the negative side, our older son is very protective of his name and starts yelling at people who dare use the Catalan version.

One other cute thing that is only done in Catalonia (not in Spain) is the additional of “la” or “el” in front of a name as a diminutive. Instead of just saying “Jordi”, they’ll say “El Jordi” or “La Maria” when they are talking about them. It’s usually just for the first name, but sometimes for the last name when there are multiple people in a group with the same first name. I’ve heard that is considered extremely uneducated by people from other parts of Spain, but I think it sounds sweet.


Charles Butler said...

They use 'el' before names here alot. It's considered more rustic (as in hick) than merely badly educated.

Unknown said...

I've found it to be quite the opposite - in dubbed films and TV in Spain, people keep to the original names. I grew up watching "maiquel nait" save the world with his fantastic car, and far too many weird and wonderful ways of pronouncing "Gary".

Some people prefer to find a more "natural" way to translate things, but rarely. People actively try to get their tongues round my name (Giles) rather than take any of the more palatable alternatives I suggest.

Maybe you're seeing a more catalan perspective on these things?

Josh said...

@Giles: Out of curiosity, what is the palatable Spanish equivalent to your name? You're not the author by any chance?

Film and TV do tend to maintain foreign names, but many towns will have a Calle Carlos Marx (or similar). I think that historical figures tend to get their names translated fairly frequently.

emma said...

nine times out of ten, my name gets translated into an entirely different one, even when i spell it out. i resent being called inma because *its not my name*.

Rob Siemann said...

Just discovered your blog, and we love it!
Rob and Mandy