2

Yesterday I was practising katakana by writing my classmates' names down, but some of the names were harder than I expected. I have a classmate named Väinö, but neither the ä or ö sounds exists in Japanese. At first I considered writing his name down as Waino, but that sounds like the word vaino which means persecution in my native tongue. How should I write these vowels?

Has anyone had similar problems? How did you solve them?

1

When transcribing your name to Japanese, in principle you can choose a transcription as you please.

For transcribing V, ヴァ・ヴィ・ヴ・ヴェ・ヴォ va vi vu ve vo is standard. (See this question, though: Do Japanese actually pronounce the "v" sound?)

As Japanese has only five vowels /aiueo/, vowels which are different in your native language will have to be mapped to the same vowel in Japanese.

A common strategy is to ignore the diacritics and substitute Ä ­­→ A → /a/, Ö → O → /o/, etc. (not only in Japanese, but also in English!).

This also seems to be common for well-known people named Väinö:

If that doesn't work for you for some reason or other, you can try to modify it to ヴァイネ Vaine. (Note that Ö [[ø]] → /e/ is also standard for transcription from German, as for example in ln → ルン, ttingen → ッティンゲン, Goethe [[ˈɡøːtə]] → ーテ, etc.)

  • here's the problem with that, though: you don't know whether those famous people chose that spelling, or if it was forced on them by Japanese people, for example bloggers or reporters, who don't understand that Ä and Ö do not actually sound like A and O. Emmi is specifically trying to avoid a romaji or katakana spelling that would result in a bad association: "vaino" - "persecution". Maybe halfsize "ne" is "wrong", but it would get a Japanese person to stop and really think about the pronunciation. Katakana is all about loanwords/emphasis in modern Japanese, so... – ericfromabeno Apr 18 '18 at 22:29
  • I only said it is good to be aware of other spellings, not to necessarily follow their lead. Indeed, such spellings could have been chosen by people completely ignorant of the actual pronunciation. – Earthliŋ Apr 18 '18 at 22:37
0

unfortunately, Japanese is not well suited for representing the sounds of words or names in other languages. Listening to that name online (assuming it is the Finnish name that I found the pronunciation for) the closest katakana would be ヴァーイネ which in romaji would be written Vaaine or Va-ine. Some people might choose to write the katakana 'ne' (ネ) half-size, which in Japanese represents that the sound should be minimized in some way. There are standard and well understood versions of this like ファ、フェ、so you might get Japanese to a closer approximation of your friend's name with 'Vaainue' where the katakana 'nue' is written ヌェ. Or go the other way and write it 'Vaaineu' with a minimized 'u' sound.

Japanese people know that katakana cannot accurately represent the sound of other languages well, so most of them will take care to listen to how your friend pronounces his name, and try to mimic him. But for people seeing his name in print and never hearing the proper pronunciation, expect to have to help them get it right upon meeting them.

  • 1
    Sheesh, what's up with the downmods. – Eiríkr Útlendi Apr 18 '18 at 17:14
  • 1
    I just figured maybe I hadn't met a website criteria or something. although I do find it odd to be downvoted without comment of some kind. being upvoted without comment isn't so unusual, but usually if someone thinks a post needs a downvote, they say why, in my experience. – ericfromabeno Apr 18 '18 at 17:20
  • 2
    There are a lot of small kana, but used in Japanese are only ァィゥェォ and ャュョ and maybe ヮ. (Of course there is also ッ, but it has a special role.) There is no half-size ネ, though, not even when trying to borrow from representation of other languages like Ainu or Korean (which has ㇰ・ㇱㇲ・ㇳ・ㇴ・ㇵㇶㇷㇸㇹ・ㇷ゚・ㇺ・ㇻㇼㇽㇾㇿ). I don't think trying to write a name with a half-size ネ is such a good idea. – Earthliŋ Apr 18 '18 at 22:09
  • 4
    The three downvotes are most likely because parts of the answer are misleading ("Japanese people know that katakana cannot accurately represent the sound of other languages well, so most of them will take care to listen to how your friend pronounces his name, and try to mimic him" – no, they will pronounce your name as allowed by Japanese loanword phonology, because they're speaking Japanese) or flat-out incorrect ("Some people might choose to write the katakana 'ne' (ネ) half-size, which in Japanese represents that the sound should be minimized in some way" – they will not and it does not). – snailboat Feb 18 at 17:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.