14 September, 2014

Name hassles in Japan

When we first were going to Japan, nobody told me my name would change.

Wendy Marshall became Maasharu Ooendii (my first name isn't too different from it's Australian pronunciation).

I became a citizen of Awsutoraria. I baulked at this. Surely I could just call Australia, Australia? But no, it isn't understood, you have to use a Japanese accent with foreign words, unless someone speaks English. 
Getting used to the Japanese version of my name was a little
like getting used to breathing through a snorkel (this was
during our brief holiday in Cairns in July). It felt awkward
and constricting, and took time.

So, incidentally, I have a terrible time in Australia with Australian pronunciations of Japanese words. I have this reoccurring conversation with people who think they know Japanese food and ask what food I like, I hesitate, then they tell me what they like, in an Australian accent. It can be awkward, because I often don't know what it is that they've said.

But back to names, there are much worse names than ours, particularly names that have bad meanings in Japanese. Like "Ben". We had a friend who was working in Japan and he never revealed that he was called "Ben" in Australia. He stuck with Benjamin or his surname. Sorry to all you Bens out there, but "Ben" means, among other things, a bowel movement.

It's not always as simple as a straight translation problems. Because Japanese generally adds vowels between consonants, names can end up almost unrecognisable. Given a list of names of our friends only written in Japanese script, it is really hard to figure out their names.

I've sat at our local doctors with friends and heard their names called and not recognise it. For example:

Robert becomes Robaato.
David becomes somethings between Deibiddo and Deividdo.
Kelly becomes Kerii.
Lesley becomes Rezurii.
If you'd like to check out your name, try this name translator.

Check out what's happened to these German women's names in Japan. 

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