Learn to Write Japanese

Japanese Translation for names.
How to write your English name in Japanese

Today's Japanese lessons is to learn Japanese name translation.

In Japanese, you can render your name phonetically, making use of the katakana, hiragana or even kanji.

  • Kanji script are always used for their meanings exclusively.
  • Hiragana script are primarily used for words whose kanji are excessively difficult and obscure, as ending for some kanji based words and for particles.
  • Katakana scripts are used mainly for foreign words and to emphasize native words, serving a role similar to that played by italics in English.

The most popular script for Westerners is the kanji.

In Japanese, we normally tranlate English names either in Katakana or Kanji, but many Westerners prefer to have their names in Japanese kanji which retain both the pronunciation and the original meaning of their name.


Difference between Japanese name and English name translation

Unlike the English name translation, Japanese people used kanji only as phonetic symbols, with no regard for their acutual meaning, when translating names in Japanese,

For example, a simple word like 体 (Karada) meaning "body", can aslo be written with other combination of kanji characters like, 華羅陀 (Ka - flower, ra - change, and da - buddha),

whose meanings bear no relevance at all to the intended meaning.

This method actually applies for the Japanese name translation.


Type of Japanese Translation for names.

When Japanese people translate names, we choose from four different types of Japanese translation called:

  1. Kana Translation
  2. Purely Phonetic Translation
  3. Purely Penotative translation
  4. Purely denotative translation
  5. Phonetic and Eulogistic translation

Kana Translation is used to write English names in Japanese Katakana script, and is the standard method of writting English names in Japanese.
For example, if we write Tom in Japanese Katakana, you just pick up the Katakana characters from the 45 Katakana chart whose sound is "To" and "Mu". Very easy, isn' it?

To Katakana symbol Mu katakana symbol

Purely Phonetic Translation is to write characters by the sound, and ignore the meaning.
Normally, this translation is used for writting names in Kanji.
With Kanji, there are 2 types of reading.
One is Onyomi and second one is Kunyomi.

The onyomi has developed from the original Chinese pronunciation but
over the centuries it has been adapted to and become part of the Japanese language.
On the other hand, the kunyomi is native Japanese word.

So, for example, if we write Tom in Japanese kanji, we combines Kanji characters whose sounds "To" and "Mu", but with this Japanese translation, we would not care about the meaning of Japanese names written.

To Kanji Symbol Mu - Kanji

Purely Penotative translation is unlikely used in Japanese translation for names, but this method of translating names is very similar to the way of translating names in English.
Rather than the sound of characters, it focuses on preserving the meaning of the name.

Purely denotative translation - This is the method which sorely on preseving the meaning of the original English name. To be able to do a denotative rendering, it is necessary to know the original meaning of the Englihsh name.

For example, it we translate Edward with this method, and the original meaning of Edward is rich guardian, we simply translate rich guardian into Japanese kanji symbols, 富裕保護者.

However, this method is NOT used even for Japanese names.

Phonetic and Eulogistic Translation is the mostly used for Japanese name translation.
It is the Japanese translation which translate names into Japanese kanji symbols that has sound and meaning.

For example, to write Tom by using the Phonetic and Eulogistic Translation, we have chosen the Japanese kanji of Fighting and Samurai. The fighting Kanji symbol has the "To" sound, and Samurai kanji symbol has the "Mu" sound when both are read as kun yomi.
So, in this case, Tom has the meaning of "a fighting samurai".

To Kanji Symbol Mu - Kanji

But, because it is possible for many different kanji to have the same sound,
each name can have a variety of possible kanji combination.

Another example is the following.
In this case, we have chosen the Kanji symbol whose meaing is Boss in Japanese.
So, Tom has the meaning of "a Samurai Boss"

To Kanji Symbol Mu - Kanji

However, this is only applicable to kanji scritp, but not Katakana Script.
Because there are only 45 Katakana characters which has only 1 sound.

For more information about Japanese Translation, the best website we would recommend is Japanese symbols site.

NEXT: Japanese grammar

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