NameRobot was originally developed to find names for business use, but since you can do a lot more with names, words and languages, we recently released our first name-game: Spell My Name. Just enter your name and it will reveal how to pronounce your name in Japanese.

My name in Japanese or a trip to Japan

Imagine flying to Japan. Blossoming cherry tress, the Fuji mountain, a tea ceremony: all this and more awaits you in the Land of Smiles. As your plane lands, your host Yamamoto-san is already waiting for you. He's got a sheet of paper in his hands with the name "Martinson" written on it - that's your name. As you approach him, he greets you with a welcoming smile and a slight bow. "Konnichi-wa Maruchinson-san!" - "Good day, Mr. Maruchinson?" What did he do to your name?

Japanese sound inventory and syllable structure

fb_smnEach language has its individual contingent of sounds (or phonemes) as well as rules for forming syllables in certain combinations. After a human has acquired one particular language, he will no longer be able to produce all the sounds and combinations that are theoretically possible. This is why native speakers of German often have problems pronouncing the "th" in English, because they did not learn this sound as a toddler. When learning the German language, however, native speakers of English despair because of sounds like "ch" in cute diminutives such as "Streichholzschächtelchen" ("small match box"), and even the seemingly harmless "Herbststrauch" ("autumn bush") is not so easy to pronounce. Here we are dealing with a complex syllable structure, which is not allowed in all languages​​. The Japanese language is particularly strict in this respect and only allows so-called "optimal" syllables: a consonant followed by a vowel or a vowel alone, with more complex syllables not usually allowed.

But what happens when a Japanese person has to pronounce a foreign name with a "forbidden" syllable structure? He or she will slightly change the pronunciation to avoid dealing with complicated consonant clusters. A vowel is inserted between successive consonants to make a word pronouncable for the speaker. The vowel "u" works particularly well, as it is voiceless and therefore is almost inaudible. In addition to this, the phoneme inventory of Japanese is different in some respects from that of say, the English or German language. The distinction between "r" and "l", for example, is not made, so this sound is combined into one which is in between the two.

All these rules are established subconsciously, and so your friend Yamamoto-san converts the complicated "Martinson" to "Maruchinson" automatically. That's far easier to pronounce - if you are Japanese, of course!

"Draw a name for yourself"

fb_smn2 With the NameRobot game "Spell My Name!" you do not have to take the long journey to Japan to find out how to spell your name in Japanese: the application calculates the pronunciation of your name and presents it to you in a western transcription.

In addition, you can use the tool to enjoy another beautiful side of the Japanese language: your name in katakana syllabary. Due to its strict structure, there is only a very limited number of syllables in Japanese, which led to the development of a writing system that would never work in Indo-European languages ​​such as German or English. The "katakana", as they are called, form a syllable aphabet  reserved for loanwords from other languages ​​and is only a fraction of the complex tripartite Japanese writing system.

Spell My Name provides you with a valuable insight into the complexity of the Japanese language and script through something that you can remember and understand easily: your own name. You can also try out the names of your family, friends or pets, or you use the opportunity to find out your name in the Hebrew, Cyrillic or Greek alphabets. Since these languages ​​have far less strict rules of syllable structure as the Japanese does, however,
you'll find no strange pronunciation here: but the results look pretty anyway!

Shout it out loud

Did you find a beautiful or funny-sounding name? Or do you like typeface particularly well? Then share it in the shoutbox on the Spell My Name page or in the Facebook app, or leave a comment under this article.

The NameRobot team hopes you enjoy discovering lots and lots of Japanese, Hebrew, Cyrillic and Greek names!



Further News:
  1. 08/29/18 – 22:00: Namefruits #1 Product of the Day at Product Hunt
  2. 08/08/18 – 16:17: Check business names online – with NameScore
  3. 12/08/11 – 09:30: Your name in Japanese

Naming services

Here you can find information on NameRobot's online business naming products. Find the NameRobot service to suit your naming needs here!