When translating named entities (for example, a person name), phonetical translation (known as transliteration) is used to make Katakana characters sound like its roman characters equivalent. This allows Japanese speakers who cannot read roman characters, to pronounce correctly named entities.

What is the best way to deal with acronyms? For example:

O.J. Simpson:

Version 1 (leave acronym in roman characters): O.J. シンプソン

Version 2 (transliterate everything): オジェ・シンプソン


You mention acronyms but give examples of abbreviations in names. My answer assumes you mean abbreviations.

It's standard to use romaji for the initials in people's names (abbreviations). For example,

As for acronyms, it seems to be a mixture. Well-known acronyms can be used in phonetic forms, but very often they have a more official Japanese version since Japanese people might not understand the meaning of the letters in many English acronyms. Here are some well known English acronyms and their Japanese counterparts:

  • CDC アメリカ疾病予防管理センター
  • NATO 北大西洋条約機構 or ネイトー
  • WHO 世界保健機関
  • UN 国際連合
  • NHK エヌエイチケイ or 日本放送協会

Of course, there are also acronym loanwords which retained the phonetic rendering, such as UFO (ユーフォー), DVD (ディーブイディー), etc.

  • Sorry, my choice of words and example might have been too focused on person names. Would you say the same apply for other abbreviations, for example, a restaurant called Dr. Grill would be ドクターグリル or DRグリル – Nicolas Bouvrette Aug 10 '20 at 18:09
  • 2
    NATOはほぼ常に「ナトー」と読まれていると思います。 – naruto Aug 11 '20 at 0:33
  • @NicolasBouvrette No, ドクター, ミスター, ジュニア etc. Maybe if you list a lot I can name a few exceptions, but not at the moment. – broken laptop Aug 11 '20 at 3:26

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