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沙羅 - Sara - how to write my foreign names in Japanese?

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沙羅 - Sara - how to write my foreign names in Japanese?

Postby caladwenaeariel » Tue 03.20.2012 9:53 am

Hey guys! My name IRL is Sara. If I go to Japan, can I write my name as 沙羅? My parents named me Sara, and I'm American, so I'm wondering if it's fair, technically, to use 沙羅 when I'm in Japan. I think 沙羅 is the Japanese "Sara". But it kinda seems like cheating. I mean, since I'm not Japanese ;)

Legally I've probably got to write my name as Sara, right? I don't know about legal stuff, either... I am guessing using さら or サラ is okay for many situations, but I'm dying to use kanji.

What does everybody else do?
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Re: 沙羅 - Sara - how to write my foreign names in Japanese?

Postby SomeCallMeChris » Tue 03.20.2012 10:43 pm

It's a cultural expectation that foreigners will write their names in katakana, and it may create a bad impression if you go ahead and use kanji anyway. (This doesn't mean you can't get a mug or keychain with the kanji name on it if you want, just that you should use kana when you fill out paperwork, give people your contact information, sign a guest book, etc.)
There have been other threads about this if you want to search them out for more advice and testimonies.
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Re: 沙羅 - Sara - how to write my foreign names in Japanese?

Postby furrykef » Fri 03.23.2012 5:44 am

Even Kristi Yamaguchi's name, both first and last, are normally written in katakana in Japanese: クリスティー・ヤマグチ. That's how ingrained the "foreign person = name in katakana" thing is.
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Re: 沙羅 - Sara - how to write my foreign names in Japanese?

Postby jimbreen » Fri 03.23.2012 6:01 pm

furrykef wrote:Even Kristi Yamaguchi's name, both first and last, are normally written in katakana in Japanese: クリスティー・ヤマグチ. That's how ingrained the "foreign person = name in katakana" thing is.


It's even used to "out" Japanese people. When Yoko Ono shacked up with John Lennon, the Japanese press started writing her name in katakana, presumably to show that she wasn't really Japanese any more.

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Re: 沙羅 - Sara - how to write my foreign names in Japanese?

Postby Ongakuka » Fri 03.23.2012 6:34 pm

My advice is to just go ahead and do it. When it comes to official documents you should probably stick to kana, but generally speaking, your choice to use kanji will reflect your interest in Japanese culture to the people you meet, and most Japanese people will respect and like you for that.
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Re: 沙羅 - Sara - how to write my foreign names in Japanese?

Postby jimbreen » Fri 03.23.2012 9:09 pm

Ongakuka wrote:My advice is to just go ahead and do it. When it comes to official documents you should probably stick to kana, but generally speaking, your choice to use kanji will reflect your interest in Japanese culture to the people you meet, and most Japanese people will respect and like you for that.


They'll also think you're a 変な外人, but then we all are by definition.

Officialdom can be a problem. A (外人) friend of mine who is a professor at a major university tells the story of how when he first started working there he had a hanko made with a kanjified version of his name and busily used it to certify students' results, etc. etc. After a year or so an official memo arrived from Monbusho HQ ordering him to desist. It seemed 外人 having names written in kanji transgressed some undocumented policy (or more likely got up the nostril of a xenophobic 係り員.)

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