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Translating People’s Names

Whether you speak English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Portuguese, Persian, etc. my first name still is and will always be Antoni. This name is common in Catalonia and Poland. It’s interesting to note that there’s a funny Poland-Catalonia connection. In Spanish, one designates a person from Poland or the language that is spoken in that country, as polaco. At the same time, some Spaniards use this term as a slur to refer to a Catalan person.

While there’s no apparent reason for that, I’ve always heard that it stems from the fact that Catalans speak a language that many Spaniards don’t understand. Some people in Spain will call chino (Chinese) any language that they don’t understand. There might be a reason for using the Polish derogatory term: the historical similarities in which different countries have always sliced both Poland and Catalonia. After all, Catalonia is definitely not Spain.

But (s)he who laughs last laughs best. Catalan people have actually embraced this insult and transform it into the comedy show Polònia.

I don’t care if my name can be translated, or you use a different variant in your own language. You just have no right to call me by a different name. Therefore, I’m not Anthony, Antoine, Anton, Antonis, Antonio, Antony, etc. My name is Antoni, here and anywhere in the world. If you call me by a different name that’s not Antoni, I’ll assume you’re addressing the wrong person.

Okay, I might let you call me Tony or Toni, but only if we know each other and I like you. Some people can’t pronounce Antoni as [ənˈtɔni]. I know it might not be easy, but I’ve never understood why some Spanish-speaking people say it like they’re reading [ˈantoni]. If it’s not written Ántoni, why do you read it like that? Unfortunately, it’s usually the very same people refusing to say a Catalan name that will call us polacos.

Likewise, the name of the president of Catalonia is Carles Puigdemont. He’s not Carlos, Carl, Karl, Carlo, Karel, Séarlas, Karol, or Charles:

The above picture advertised Carles Puigdemont with a different name on January 22, 2018, at the Københavns Universitet (University of Copenhagen). It could have been a mistake. In Spain, it was commonplace to hispanize names, starting with the Bourbons takeover of the monarchy in the early 1700s and until dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975.

In summary, I believe that we have to educate the masses not to translate people’s names. The fact that it was done in the past doesn’t justify continuing to do it. There’s no excuse in a global world in which it’s never been easier to communicate and learn foreign languages. And if you can’t do it yourself, you can always count on the services of a professional.


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