Translating proper nouns

Have you ever been to Germany?

I have. Well, sort of. Because the reality of the situation is that there is no such place as Germany. There is, however, a place called Deutschland.

In fact, in the English language, we have names for most countries which are entirely different to their native. I’ve studied both the French and German language, and I’m currently browsing Complete Finnish, a book Elina bought me for my birthday and all of those have different names for each country in their own language that differ from the actual place name as well.

But why?

We don’t translate any other proper nouns. People’s names for example. Or brand names. It would just be strange meeting Gijsbert and saying “Gijsbert? No, I speak English so I’m going to all you Ken.”

There is perhaps an argument to be made that when languages have significant differences, such as Far East or African languages where the native words are particularly hard to pronounce, but given most of Western Europe is based on Latin, they are quite easily interchangeable pronunciation.

It gets stranger though. For example, the Finnish domain name is .fi. It’s named .fi because that is short for Finland. But Finland is the English name for the place – they call it Suomi! What is going on…



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This entry was posted on Friday, December 9th, 2011 at 12:17 pm and is filed under Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.