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Is this REALLY my name in kanji?

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Is this REALLY my name in kanji?

Postby Shiroisan » Sat 05.28.2011 5:55 pm

For the past couple months that I've been learning Japanese, I've always been told that a foreign name can only be properly represented by katakana, as that is the only writing system that represents foreign words.

However, I went to this website, and it came up with three ways to spell my five-alphanumeric-letter name with FIVE kanji??

http://www.whatismynameinjapanese.com/james.html


Can anyone who has their kanji down pat read those 3 names and see if it actually represents what they say it does? Does it actually make sense?
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Re: Is this REALLY my name in kanji?

Postby furrykef » Sat 05.28.2011 7:59 pm

It's readable but it'll look pretty silly. A Japanese person probably won't instantly know it's supposed to be "James", though they might be able to figure it out. The biggest problem is that it reads ji-ei-i-mu-zu instead of jei-mu-zu, since "je" is not a sound that exists in native Japanese words (and hence is unrepresentable in kanji). By the way, the kanji are pretty much interchangeable; you can mix and match the kanji from the three versions so long as you use them in the same order -- i.e. so long as the reading is still ji-ei-i-mu-zu. There are also many more kanji you can use that are not listed. Finally, you can also remove the third kanji to change it from ji-ei-i-mu-zu to ji-ei-mu-zu, which is closer to the katakana form. Mixing the kanji or removing the third kanji is unlikely to do any harm because, honestly, the kanji here have no meaning beyond their sound anyway. (Yes, 時 does mean "time", etc., but Japanese people do not really analyze names in this way any more than we think about how "Smith" has to do with metalworking.)

By the way, the convention of writing foreign names in katakana is so ingrained that even Japanese names are written in katakana if the person is foreign-born. For example, Kristi Yamaguchi's name is written クリスティー・ヤマグチ even though the correct kanji for her surname is obviously 山口.

But still, if you really want a kanji name, the best thing to do is ask a Japanese person to make one up for you (or make one up yourself once you're familiar with Japanese names) -- i.e., a real Japanese name, not a kanjified Western name. Of course, nobody will be able to connect your Japanese name to your Western name without you telling them...
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Re: Is this REALLY my name in kanji?

Postby chikara » Mon 05.30.2011 10:16 pm

Shiroisan wrote:.... However, I went to this website, and it came up with three ways to spell my five-alphanumeric-letter name with FIVE kanji??

http://www.whatismynameinjapanese.com/james.html

Can anyone who has their kanji down pat read those 3 names and see if it actually represents what they say it does? Does it actually make sense?

The fact that that site gives you three ways to supposedly write James in kanji but only one way to write it in katakana should tell you something. :)

As furrykef-san pointed out none of them are phonetically correct as they all start with a kanji with a reading of ジ whereas James starts with ジェ. The only way that those kanji combinations make any sense as James is if the reader already knows your name is James.

You may as well write your name like this;

Image

:P :D
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Re: Is this REALLY my name in kanji?

Postby micahcowan » Tue 05.31.2011 3:41 pm

chikara wrote:The fact that that site gives you three ways to supposedly write James in kanji but only one way to write it in katakana should tell you something.


Should it? Most actual Japanese names have like a gazillian ways to write it in kanji, but only one in katakana or hiragana.

(To OP:) That being said, yeah, these are pretty horrid choices for representing a western name, and as you've been told, it's not really appropriate in general to use kanji to write western names. They may (a) not be recognized as anything other than gibberish, (b) tend to be ambiguous as to their pronunciation (since many kanji have multiple possible readings, especially when it comes to names), (c) fail to properly represent the correct phonemes (as is the case here), and (d) come across as a bit pretentious. ;)

They're well and good for going to a fairgrounds and paying a buck to get a card or piece of paper with your "kanji name" inscribed on it; not much good for anything else.

Since, as furrykef points out, there is no native "je" sound in Japanese, I'd probably choose a character that approximates it (perhaps 是 for "ze", to make "zeimuzu"), as that sounds better to me than "ji e mu zu". Also, most of the characters used on that page to make the final "zu" sound, sort of work, but "zu" wouldn't necessarily be the first sound that leaps to people's minds when they see that. For instance, 津 makes me (non-Japanese, so not necessarily typical for Japanese spekears) think of the sound "tsu" or "shin" first, and 頭 "tou".

Using kanji even for Japanese names is complicated enough: there are generally many possible ways to write a given name, and often there are many ways to read a given written name. For going from a written name to spoken, if the pronunciation isn't given for you, you go with the "most likely" reading based on past experiences. For going from a spoken name to a written name, it's usually best not to guess (use hiragana), until someone shows you how they write it, unless it's an unambiguous name (like furrykef's "Yamaguchi" example - surnames may possibly be less ambiguous than given names?).
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Re: Is this REALLY my name in kanji?

Postby chikara » Thu 06.02.2011 8:08 pm

micahcowan wrote:Should it? Most actual Japanese names have like a gazillian ways to write it in kanji, but only one in katakana or hiragana.....
Yes, you are correct so my point wasn't as valid as I first thought but I was specifically referring to non-Japanese names such as James.

Unfortunately with many Japanese given names it is also difficult to know how to read them unless you already know the persons name.
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