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Why when spelling Polish names abroad, Polish letters are ignored?


Maaarysia
9 May 2011  #1
When I read articles in foreign media I always see Polish surnames spelled without Polish letters: ą, ę, ł, ż, ź, ć, ń, ś, while for example Swedish or German names are spelled (generally) correctly including letters specific for their language. For example Lech Wałęsa almost in every foreign media exists under the name Lech Walesa while such names as Björk, Jonas Åkerlund or Mikael Håfström seem to be not a problem for the same sources. Have you noticed that too? What might be the reason for that?
boletus 30 | 1,367
9 May 2011  #2
What might be the reason for that?

I guess, the "Latin 2" vs. "Latin 1" unfair division during early computer age, before Unicode revolution, is part of it. In those times Swedes could easily communicate with French (Latin 1) but not with Poles (Latin 2). But some people, including Polish users, do not know how to take advantage of Unicode and stick to old software. I still see some web pages originating from Poland, which are rendered improperly, so instead of "Wałęsa" a reader sees somthing like "Wa%#sa".

Maaarysia
I always see Polish surnames spelled without Polish letters: ą, ę, ł, ż, ź, ć, ń, ś,

The "always" part is not correct. Enter Wałęsa in Google's search field and try news, English results only, in order to eliminate Polish sources. I just did it - one of the top results is this:

Edit - not this one

Google:
What the West Gets Wrong About Belarus‎
Central Europe Digest - Edward Lucas - 2 May 2011
None of the opposition leaders has emerged as a charismatic, credible leader similar to Lech Wałęsa or Václav Havel. It is true that they faced a difficult ...

But statistically - you are right. Edward Lucas (above) is a good friend of Poland, and he knows the correct spelling.
OP Maaarysia
9 May 2011  #3
Enter Wałęsa in Google's search field and try news, English results only, in order to eliminate Polish sources. I just did it - one of the top results is this:

I just did it too and Walesa was in most renown newspapers

But probably you're right about the lack of proper types for Polish letter. Probably that was the reason and people just get used to this spelling.
Koala 1 | 332
9 May 2011  #4
Why do you care? They wouldn't pronounce it correctly even if they spelled them correctly. *shrugs*
delphiandomine 85 | 17,824
9 May 2011  #5
I just did it too and Walesa was in most renown newspapers

You might want to start by asking why Poland doesn't allow foreign (ie, non English/Polish) characters on official documents.

Generally speaking, names are always rendered differently in different languages - Michaił Gorbaczow anyone?

I suppose Lech Wałęsa should be Lech Valemsa in English. But that would be silly - so Lech Walesa it is.
ItsAllAboutME 3 | 270
9 May 2011  #6
I still see some web pages originating from Poland, which are rendered improperly, so instead of "Wałęsa" a reader sees somthing like "Wa%#sa".

some commonly used font sets here don't have Polish characters (or characters from other languages). Besides, nobody knows how to pronounce them, so Wałęsa is really the same as Walesa, and neither of them is pronounced the original Polish way... It takes decades before a name (like Brzezinski) becomes a household name, so the pronunciation and spelling become closer to Polish. For the most part, only few people know who Walesa is.
boletus 30 | 1,367
9 May 2011  #7
Why do you care? They wouldn't pronounce it correctly even if they spelled them correctly. *shrugs*

Few of my Canadian friends often recall Wałęsa in conversations and pronounce it correctly.
Antek_Stalich 5 | 997
9 May 2011  #8
What problem is this really? This is transcription. Due to historical reasons, typing Polish names using only English characters is not really different than transliterating Russian names into Latin.

My feeling is, most Poles give a damn to it. Most of e-mail systems disallow anything than English characters in the message subject, too.
Koala 1 | 332
9 May 2011  #9
Generally speaking, names are always rendered differently in different languages - Michaił Gorbaczow anyone?

Russians use different alphabet, so Poles use a different transcription convention than the English speaking countries.
alexw68
9 May 2011  #10
For the most part, only few people know who Walesa is.

The BBC were quite meticulous about the pronunciation of Wałęsa's name - if not the orthography - when all that was front page news in the 80s. Hence, anyone reasonably politically switched on (and old enough to remember those times) in the UK indeed would know who he was.

They weren't quite as on the ball a few short years later, though, when they didn't pick up a heavily-accented 'F*ck you, Manchester' chant from the Legia Warsaw contingent at Old Trafford and cheerily broadcast it to a grateful nation ... :)
boletus 30 | 1,367
9 May 2011  #11
ItsAllAboutME

some commonly used font sets here don't have Polish characters (or characters from other languages)

Here? I am typing from Canada, and I can use any European script (in theory anything, but I never tried it for lack of knowledge/interest in African, Middle Eastern languages) - including math symbols, with most fonts. But I use Hackintosh. Apple always had good Unicode support.
OP Maaarysia
9 May 2011  #12
Generally speaking, names are always rendered differently in different languages - Michaił Gorbaczow anyone?

I suppose Lech Wałęsa should be Lech Valemsa in English. But that would be silly - so Lech Walesa it is.

They are rendered only if the original spelling is in the different alphabet.

You might want to start by asking why Poland doesn't allow foreign (ie, non English/Polish) characters on official documents.

Is there any country which allow to do that?

My feeling is, most Poles give a damn to it.

I was just curious :)
alexw68
9 May 2011  #13
Apple always had good Unicode support.

Fanboi :)

Same story for Linux for as long as I can remember. That Microsoft hegemony is probably what's behind all this - it's a hard, hard thing to break...
boletus 30 | 1,367
9 May 2011  #14
Same story for Linux for as long as I can remember

I only exited the Linux camp few years ago, after becoming too lazy to play the role of "System administrator". Man, setting up my newest toy was as hard as my first "slackware". This, I hope, exonerates me. :-)
Antek_Stalich 5 | 997
9 May 2011  #15
ItsAllAboutME: some commonly used font sets here don't have Polish characters (or characters from other languages)
Here? I am typing from Canada, and I can use any European script (in theory anything, but I never tried it for lack of knowledge/interest in African, Middle Eastern languages) - including math symbols, with most fonts. But I use Hackintosh. Apple always had good Unicode support.

Come on... Microsoft Windows supports all languages. However, somebody working hard and fast saves time by just typing given name quickly using English characters. If I were to type something in Czech, I'd have to switch to the Czech keyboard (and not having the physical Czech keyboard, I'd have to use the "screen keyboard", which is painful). Or, to use the Character Map. Why should I do it?

Many Polish friends of mine staying abroad just chat with me in Polish using only Latin characters and we understand one another perfectly. I work in a English-speaking company and we address our Polish clients not using diacritical characters. Nobody complains. I think our sales area is 16 countries in Scandinavia and East Europe. Everybody's getting same from me - a Norwegian, Finnish or a Croat will be addressed only in Latin.
Havok 10 | 912
9 May 2011  #16
Have you noticed that too? What might be the reason for that?

I would agree with Antek. Most of us doesn't give a damn, but I'm sure you can request your name to be spelled anyway you want. Do you remember Prince? His name was just a sign. Not sure how to pronounce it, but here it is.


  • ...
Antek_Stalich 5 | 997
9 May 2011  #17
Havok, it's spelled "the artist formerly known as Prince" ;-))))

Sure, everyone can demand proper spelling. Then I would give less discount to such a company ;-)
alexw68
9 May 2011  #18
Not sure how to pronounce it, but here it is.

'Weird purple midget', I believe. Sorry, can't be bothered to render it in phonemics :)
delphiandomine 85 | 17,824
10 May 2011  #19
They are rendered only if the original spelling is in the different alphabet.

Not always true - what about Franjo Tuđman? It's rendered in Polish as Tudjman at times, not the original.

And the names are frequently changed - for instance, Mindaugas, the first Lithuanian king - known as Mindaugas in English and Lithuanian, but changed into Mendog in Polish.

And what about the most famous example of the lot - John Paul II, or more accurately, Ioannes Paulus II.

Polish is really littered with examples like this.
Antek_Stalich 5 | 997
10 May 2011  #20
Before anyone puts the complaint on spelling the name such as "Walesa", we should start calling Muenchen the right name, and we shall get rid of names such as Padwa, Rzym, Londyn, Nowy Jork and the like.
gumishu 11 | 4,956
10 May 2011  #21
Antek_Stalich

Before anyone puts the complaint on spelling the name such as "Walesa", we should start calling Muenchen the right name, and we shall get rid of names such as Padwa, Rzym, Londyn, Nowy Jork and the like.

bloody hell - you are not serious, are you?
Antek_Stalich 5 | 997
10 May 2011  #22
If anybody insists the name "Walesa" shall always be typed "Wałęsa", then I will defend my point as much as Gen. Jaruzelski used to defend the "Holy case of socialism!" ;-))))))
urszula 1 | 254
18 Jun 2011  #23
Why when spelling Polish names abroad, Polish letters are ignored?

Why are you so surprised? There are no Polish letters on keyboards. Duh. If you cross an "l" it would look like a "t" because many people haven't seen a crossed "l" and would pronounce it as a "t".

All those dots, slashes, tails just look funny and look like printing errors to the majority of the world not familiar with the Polish language.
Lyzko
18 Jun 2011  #24
Poles make every effort to spell foreign names exactly as in the foreign language, why not in reverse? They have letters we don't have (ą,ć,ę,ł,ń,ó,ś,ź,ż) and we have sounds they don't have (flat "l", "r" with no flap, a flat "a"), so in the end, it evens itself out rather nicely!
Antek_Stalich 5 | 997
18 Jun 2011  #25
Poles make every effort to spell foreign names exactly as in the foreign language, why not in reverse?

Nah, not really, perhaps in the newspapers because the modern technology allows that but it is not mandatory. Besides Lyzko, there are these variants of some foreign names in Polish

Mao Ze Dong, Mao Tse Tung - which is correct, you think?
Pekin (we do not use Peking or Beijing)
Nankin (we do not write Nanjing)
Tokio (not Tokyo)
£ukaszenko, £ukaszenka
Saakaszwili
Szekspir (not Shakespeare)
etc.
Lyzko
18 Jun 2011  #26
True enough, yet I have seen Polish books with alternative spellings for the ones you mentioned and with which I'm also familiar. More scholarly works, for instance will in fact keep Shakespeare's name and not Polonize it-:)

Perhaps certain nationalities don't see a need to nationalize various foreign spellings because the languages in question are closer to their own. Without specific examples, I really don't see how "Warsaw" is more fitting than the original "Warszawa", considering that the Polish "sz-sound" easily translates into an English "sh". Today, "Warshaw" would look ridiculous, but why then do the French prefer "Varsovie", for example? The Swedes and other Scandinavians keep the Polish the same, except if the pronunciation varies completely from their phonetic database. An intriguing question.
urszula 1 | 254
18 Jun 2011  #27
Poles make every effort to spell foreign names exactly as in the foreign language, why not in reverse

No they don't. There is no X, Q, V in Polish language, they use other letters in their place
OP Maaarysia
18 Jun 2011  #28
WHAT?! Are you kidding?! Don't make me laugh!

Poles use letters x,v,q in names of companies and in foreign names.

Antek_Stalich

In most sources there is Fryderyk Chopin not Szopen...
Poles polonize only names which are:

- spelled in different alphabet (then we transcribe it according to Polish spelling rules, not English)
- if the person is historically acknoledged and there was a long record of using polonized spelling in the past (e.g. Szekspir... although I in most cases I see original spelling)

Tokio (not Tokyo)

Could you spell it in Japanese, please? ;)
Lyzko
18 Jun 2011  #29
Wait a second here, folksies!

Let's not confuse orthographic translation of non-alphabetic languages such as Japanese etc. Of course, noone's going to spell "Tokyo" as a Japanese would, since our Western script cannot correspond to non-Western ideographs. We try to approximate the more or less same sound, but that's about all we can do-:)

On the other hand, why not keep 'Moskwa' as is? How does 'Moscow' in English, for instance, solve the problem of adaptation. The English in this case has the same consosant equivalents as the Russian, so where's the difficulty?

No. The issue is historical, i.e.cultural, ethnocentrism!
Antek_Stalich 5 | 997
18 Jun 2011  #30
Moskwa

Mahskvah, if you want to keep it phonetic in English.

What about Monachium, Norymberga, Kolonia, Rzym, Padwa, Praga, Paryż? Do you get my point? Muenchen is Mnichov in Czech, by the way.

Antek_Stalich: Tokio (not Tokyo)
Could you spell it in Japanese, please? ;)

Edo. ;-)


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