A lot of Western people love to get their names in Japanese, especially with the Japanese script called, Kanji. But, we also use 2 other Japanese scripts called Hiragana and Katakana to write names in Japanese.
So, which script is the best one to use? It depends on a type of name, and your choice!
You know, although the majority of Japanese people have their names in Kanji, some people have their names written in Hiragana or Katakana.
How about writing English names in Japanese?
We usually write English names by using the Japanese Katakana Script. Because Katakana is usually used for writing non-Japanese words which have been introduced into the Japanese language. For example, if you go to a McDonald in Japan, you will see its names in Katakana.
So, Can't we use Kanji or Hiragana to write English names in Japanese?
Yes, you can. As I said, a lot of Western people prefer to have their names in Kanji. In fact, there are many western people have their name in Kanji, especially those who live in Japan. So, although we usually write English names with Katakana script, there is no strict rule that you cannot use either Kanji or Hiragana.
Take a look at the example of Aileen in Kanji , and this is written by using 2 Kanji characters which literally means “Love and Bell".
This applies to another example I gave you - a famous Japanese Surname called “Ya Ma Da" , and literally means “Mountain field"
However, the Japanese people don't think of them in this way at all. Names are always known as names not meaning.
Then, how names are translated in Japanese?
The Japanese Name Translation is usually done by using the phonetic Translation. It means that a suitable Japanese character is allocated by the sound of names. There are roughly about 47 Katakana and Hiragana character. So, to write names in either Katakana and Hiragna, We pick the one that has got that sound.
But, with Kanji scripts, there are too many characters to apply for names, so, it is far more complex than that.
With Kanji Scripts, there are 2 ways of reading in Japanese. The Kunyomi and the Onyomi. 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.
To write names, we use both kunyomi and Onyomi reading. But, English names are usually translated with Onyomi reading, and if the sound of onyomi reading of a kanji character is the same as the sound of your name, its kanji character is allocated.
So, say if your name is “Tom" which has got 2 different sound parts. “To" “Me", and whatever the kanji which has got the onyomi reading of each sound is allocated.
But, there are also many kanji characters that has got exactly the same onyomi reading. So, there can be many different ways to write names in Kanji.
For more information about writting Japanese name, please see the following site: How to Write your English Name in Japanese
Takanori Tomita, a Japanese translator who is specializing in Japanese symbols. He lives in Tokyo, Japan. This article is (c) Takanori Tomita 2006. Permission is given to reproduce this article in whole with the URLs correctly hyperlinked.