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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

How to name a child when you're an expat?

My parents named me Olga for several reasons. One of them was the fact that this name is short and easy to pronounce. Maybe they somehow felt that I would go to live abroad. Unfortunately, they didn't predict that we'll end up in the Netherlands where the Dutch  deform this name in the most terrible manner by pronouncing it  „Olcha”. 

But this only shows how difficult it is to name a child. You have to think well whether to name the children after their grandmother, grandfather or maybe after somebody else. On top of that, the name has to sound well, and if it means something, it's even better! The name can't  be too weird, or too popular. So many rules to observe!

And this is only for people who live in their own country. I will take Poland as an example because the names are often very different from the ones that you might know. What about the Polish people who went abroad or have a non-Polish spouse? They have even more dilemmas. For example: should we give our child a Polish or an international name, or maybe a totally foreign one? Polish names are beautiful, but they often have letters and sounds that do not exist in other languages.So, there is also the problem whether you should name our child Małgorzata or Margaret, Katarzyna or Catherine? You get the idea.

What to do in such a case? This depends on the family. Many families look for names that   can be found in Polish as well as in other languages. We wanted names that could be pronounced and spelled the same way in Polish and German, hence our daughters are called Klara and Julia. In German, you can spell Klara with a "C", but this is not possible in Polish (or it would be pronounced Tslara), this is why our daughter is called Klara. "Julia" (pronounced "Yulia") is a similar case. In the same way, my Polish friends named their children „Antoni”, „Antonina”, or „Artur”. There are many other, beautiful Polish names that work internationally: „Natalia”, „Daniel”, „Adam” The choice is big.

Other Polish friends chose another way: they gave their children foreign (non-Polish) names: Jennifer, Ellen, Emma. I love these names, and it doesn't matter that they are not Polish. Actually, I would see this as an opportunity: you can give your child an original name without having to explain this to your family!

There are many methods and many ways to find a beautiful name for your child. One thing is clear, though: naming a child is never easy, and if you live abroad, there might be other issues as well.

How did you name your child? What were the reasons behind your decision?

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  1. I so know this dilemma as we had to find a name that is more or less pronounced the same in Dutch and Finnish and preferably also not a very strange name internationally. Our girl's name, Viola, came from a movie. When I was pregnant and we knew we were going to get a girl, one evening we watched Shakespeare in love on TV. Gwyneth Palthrow plays a role of Viola De Lesseps in it and I just asked my husband what he thought of the name Viola. It was the first name we really agreed on and it stuck. :) Our son's name, Felix, we already had picked for Viola if she were a boy. Even though F and X are uncommon letters in the Finnish language, this is still a known name in Finland, although not very popular one. This name I can't remember where it originally came from. It just always was the name of our boy. :)

    P.s. I am so jealous how well Google translate works on Polish. With Finnish it is really not the same. I mostly just get a good laugh if I used the translator on a Finnish page. :D

  2. Hi Tarja,

    thanks for your comment! I think Viola and Felix are beautiful names! Viola sounds musical (violin, etc.), and Felix means "the happy one!". In Poland we would write those names Wiola (although it would usually be a shot version of Wioletta) and Feliks, but well, those names are still beautiful!
    PS, Yes, I am trying to read your blog sometimes and Google Translate does NOT do a good job with Finnish! I am sorry for that! Maybe you could write more in English?

  3. The names „Natalia”, „Daniel”, „Adam” may be beautiful but they are not Polish for sure. Neither is "Malgorzata". It is just a Polish version of a Greek name.

    With names being used internationally goes also another problem e.g. different alphabet. We use both Latin and Cyryllic one at home. I tu zaczynaja sie schody...

    Malgorzata (I cannot use Polish version of Latin alphabet here somehow)

  4. Małgorzata, thank you for your comment. Yes, I agree. These are not specifically Polish names- in a sense that they are of Latin, Greek etc origin. I read that even Olga is not Slavic. However, they are mostly used in Poland- the country I took as an example. And you are right, with all the different alphabets it's even more difficult.


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