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My wife's last name in passport is Levadnia. When our marriage certificate was translated into Japanese it became レヴァドニャ.

To my taste having ヴァ in there is over-complicating. Also ニャ nya has a childish twist to it. I don't think there is a difference in pronunciation between ヴァ and ワ. Therefore, I would like to simplify it for the other documents like so.

レワドニヤ VS. レヴァドニャ

Maybe it is even more natural to have "ba" バ in there?

In my view this should decrease chances of people mistyping her last name and increase readability.

What looks more correct?

  • I presume that "Levadnia" is a Slavic surname. Is she actually from Slavic countries, or only her ancestors were and she pronounces her name in English or other languages? – broccoli facemask - cloth Mar 17 '16 at 10:42
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    ヴァ and ワ are clearly different in pronunciation at least as a katakana, and I can't tell which is what you really want. If I read this as an English name it's usually transliterated as ヴァ. (FWIW ヴァ and バ may be pronounced in the same way) – naruto Mar 17 '16 at 12:40
  • @broccoliforest I think you're trying to figure out the pronunciation to convert it to katakana. I guess it does not matter, I am more trying to figure out if katakanizing Levadnia as レワドニヤ does not have any problems. If pronunciation does not match original is fine. – dimadesu Mar 17 '16 at 14:19
  • @dimadesu I mean, I thought you maybe had an intention to reduce the chance of misunderstanding while telling the spelling vocally. If that's ignorable, you'll indeed have quite a liberty of choice. And transcribing middle-word "va" in Russian into ワ is a standard practice. Also, by "mistyping" you mean those in katakana, right? – broccoli facemask - cloth Mar 17 '16 at 15:30
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    The problem is that we don't know how you think you should pronounce Levadnia. For example, the pronunciation of Michael varies from country to country, and its Japanese approximation can be マイケル, ミカエル, ミヒャエル and so on and on, depending on his nationality. Google Translate said Levadnia is a Slovak name which sounds like this, but an average English speaker would read this quite differently. Which do you have in mind? – naruto Mar 17 '16 at 17:42
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Based on the OP's comments, here's my thoughts.

First of all, ワ and ヴァ are totally different katakana with totally different sounds at least to the ears of Japanese. Are you a native speaker of (British or American) English who can distinguish the difference between W and V sounds without difficulty? Then all you have to know is that ワ roughly corresponds to English "wa" and ヴァ corresponds to English "va". The difference is very large and important, both in English and Japanese. I don't believe it's a matter of taste.

If an average Japanese speaker who is not familiar with Slovak names (like me) sees Levadnia, they certainly use ヴァ or バ, because they try to read this as an English word. Japanese people have difficulty in distinguishing V and B sounds, so the choice between ヴァ and バ is a matter of taste. ヴァ is not particularly complicated to average Japanese adults, but if you need maximum readability and brevity, バ is a safe choice.

TLDR: You need to seriously think about the difference between レヴァドニャ and レワドニャ. Neither is more grammatically correct than the other, and only you and your wife can decide. If you decide レヴァドニャ is the right sound, you can also use レバドニャ.

-ia can be ~ニア, ~ニャ or ~ニヤ (For example Tania can be タニア, ターニャ, タニヤ). I don't think ~ニャ is particularly childish, but perhaps レヴァドニヤ or レヴァドニア is a bit easier to pronounce.

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  • Thank you for your detailed explanation. I talked to my wife and considering all the choices we plan to go for レワドニャ. – dimadesu Mar 17 '16 at 23:15
  • While Japanese might have difficulty distinguishing the sounds of "ヴァ" and "バ", I believe one is more representative of the original spelling than the other. So if the name given used "バ", it would be more difficult for the reader to infer that there is a "v" in there. YMMV. – Amani Kilumanga Mar 18 '16 at 2:18
  • I'm not sure, but wouldn't the accent fall naturally on ド in レヴァドニヤ or レヴァドニア? This might be an argument to prefer ニャ, because ド contains a vowel that wasn't there in the original word, so it is strange to have it the most prominent vowel. – Earthliŋ Mar 21 '17 at 20:08

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