1. L.W Schmidt
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    L.W Schmidt Member

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    Are These Names Difficult to Pronounce?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by L.W Schmidt, Jul 31, 2016.

    My plot is often set Germany and my characters are German, so obviously they have German names. However, recently I've been wondering if some of these names may be difficult to pronounce for people who don't speak the language or at least aren't a little familiar with it. For example, one of my main characters is called Jürgen. Will people see the umlaut and instantly be put off by it? Or is me thinking that a little insulting to my readers? The thing is, I can't take the umlaut out because then it becomes a Dutch name instead of a German one. And I certainly don't want to change it completely because that's my character's name, it always has been.
    Another example is one of my supporting character's last names (he's not a main character, but he's certainly a very important one). His name is Werner Beckenbauer. For me, reading that isn't a problem, but do your eyes just kinda skip over it? Is it hard to pronounce? At this point I honestly have no idea. But again, I really don't want to change it, because that's his name and I've grown attached to it.
    So is this really a problem or am I just thinking too much into it? Any advice is much appreciated :)
     
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  2. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I don't have a problem with your names. I think they work just fine.
     
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  3. L.W Schmidt
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    L.W Schmidt Member

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    @deadrats That's a relief to hear! Thank you haha
     
  4. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I don't have any issue with them, but I might not be the best judge since I am a bit familiar with German. Honestly though, imo you're overthinking it - if readers can stomach super fantasy-sounding names, I think they can deal with ones from different but real languages ;)
     
  5. L.W Schmidt
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    L.W Schmidt Member

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    @izzybot Yeah, you're probably right. Sometimes I forget that the majority of readers won't have the same attitude to foreign languages as my high school German class I'm sure it'll be fine, thank you.
     
  6. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    I would pronounce Jürgen as Jergen in my head. Whether or not that's right, I don't know. I don't see this as a problem.

    The other one, Werner Beckenbauer, is pretty straight forward.

    I will agree with @izzybot. You are probably over thinking this.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    To me it's Yurgen and Verner Beckenbower. No idea if that's right but they sound good in my head and wouldn't bother me. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
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  8. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    You're probably right. I think I just fell into the American Ignorant To Other Cultures trope.
     
  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Actually German is usually very (totally?) phonetic, so you're probably closer.

    I mean, I'm the person who thought Joaquin was pronounced Jock-win for 26 years of my life.
     
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  10. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    When it comes to tricky names, I think the main thing is to just make sure the reader doesn't look at it and go "yeah, no". Mispronouncing it's not that big of a deal. As long as they're reading it rather than glazing over. That's me, anyway; I used to stress over the proper pronunciations for weirder names (in my case sci-fi junk rather than foreign-but-Earth language names) but now I consider it a job done if you can just see a jumble of letters and think "oh yeah, that guy".
     
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  11. SweetOrbMace
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    SweetOrbMace Member

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    Also worth noting that there are quite a few well known Germans (or people of German origin) with similar names who at least some people are likely to be familiar with. Just off the top of my head:

    Jürgen Prochnow (Actor)
    Jürgen Klinsmann (Footballer)
    Werner Herzog (film maker)
    Werner Von Braun (Rocket scientist)

    As @Tenderiser points out German is pretty phonetic. Now Irish names! There's some tricky ones. I got into my 20s before someone pointed out that Siobhan was not pronounced See-Ob-Han, nor Cockburn Cock Burn. Fortunately the former was not themselves called Siobhan and the latter was very patient in correcting me in the pronunciation of his name.
     
  12. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Maybe it's because I'm from Missouri, which has a huge German-American population, but those names don't look intimidating at all.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think most English-speaking people would take a decent stab at these, but they might make a mistake as well. The most obvious mistake might be to mispronounce Werner. To pronounce it like Warner (with the English 'w') rather than Verner (with the German 'w' sound.) Also they might pronounce the 'j' in Jürgen is if it was like 'jerk' rather than 'yoorg.'

    I have a similar problem, in that two of my characters have Hungarian names, which are pronounced much differently from what they look like to an English speaker. I've solved the problem by including a VERY short glossary at the start, giving the correct phonetic pronunciation.
     
  14. Sennett
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    Sennett New Member

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    I've lived in Germany as a child, so I'm not a good judge for your names. (I can pronounce them just fine, also thanks to my native language, which is Dutch.) However, I have read a lot of fantasy books (and other genres, too, honestly) in which I probably screwed up the pronunciation a little. Thing is, it never makes me put the book down. Never. Even if I dislike the names or they sound weird in my head, I don't think it's a valid argument to put a book down.
     
  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've heard it said that people who read a lot often mispronounce words when they 'try them on' for the first time. For instance, I always thought 'respite' was pronounced 'ree-spite' until I used it in conversation with one of my art college instructors.

    So, I don't see it as a big deal if most of your readers mispronounce these names in their heads. In fact, I'd expect it. Somebody will correct them eventually. :)
     
  16. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love the German language - can't speak a word of it - but I love how it sounds. Those names read good to my ears.
     
  17. Shbooblie
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    Shbooblie Contributing Member

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    When I read Harry Potter for the first time, as a kid, I read 'Hermione' as ' Her-mee-oh-nay'. It wasn't until the movies came out that I realized my mistake.
    Now when I read it I read in the correct way, but still, the misreading did nothing to disrupt my enjoyment of the book so I really wouldn't dwell to much on this.

    I happen to know someone called Jürgen so was already familiar with the pronunciation of that name, however I always forget that Germans pronounce there 'W's as 'V's
    so often misread names like 'Werner'. Quite embarrassing when addressing a German uni tutor! I like your choice of names, you've got nothing to worry about :)
     
  18. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    No problem here
     
  19. JD Anders
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    JD Anders Member

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    When I was very young, I read the Percy Jackson series. I had not been introduced to Greek gods before that, so Hermes was "Herms," Poseidon was "Po-see-ih-don," and many other names were butchered. While I felt quite embarrassed when I found my mistake, there was nothing that stopped me from enjoying the series because of it.

    Trust your readers. Even if they can't pronounce it accurately, it won't take away from the story.
     

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