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How to find your English name

LifeStyle Aug 14, 2021

When you work internationally, your name is how your customers remember you. However, most people who work around the globe need to realize that the pronunciation of your name is quite essential. So let’s get started with ‘How to find your English name’.

How to find your English name? For more than a decade, I’ve worked all over the world. Europe, America, and the Middle East were my primary working areas. My profession takes me worldwide, meeting different people of different cultures. I’m dutch, and I have what could be considered a classical dutch name, ‘Gert-Jan.’ Here you’ll be able to read about me. In this post, I will focus on the question ‘do I need a second English name’ and try to answer it.

Dutch pronunciation of Gert-Jan (Powered by Google Translate)

My name is pronounced with a hard G sound. At the beginning of my career, I shortened my name to make it easier to pronounce. While I was working abroad and speaking English all the time, I did not realize that shortening my name still contained the same problem as before. The specific hard G sound of the dutch language was proving very difficult for non-dutch speakers. This left me with ‘Gert.’

I heard my name spoken by people from numerous cultures, and many asked me how to pronounce my name. Even while this was happening throughout my career, I continued without changing my name for almost a decade.

It was only when I met my Canadian girlfriend several years ago that I realized that I needed an additional change to my name. At the beginning of our relationship, she came to me one day with

Babe, we need to talk

As most people know, that sentence mostly means something ominous. Fortunately for me, it was followed by

We need to talk about your name

She pointed out to me what I mentioned earlier, the hard G sound part of my name can be hard to pronounce for both native English and non-native English speakers. To give some context, my girlfriend speaks eight languages. She explained that by shortening my name, I didn’t remove the problem of the hard G, which everyone seemed to have a problem with. Having a partner who speaks eight languages does help in identifying a problem with your name. When realizing that my legal name was hard to pronounce for native and non-native English speakers, I realized I needed to find a solution.

The power of a name

Your name is not only part of you; it defines you and is part of who you are. Your name is also how others perceive and remember you. This association is significant when working or doing business anywhere in the world. When working abroad, it’s important always to leave a good impression. This is familiar; many books and articles have been written about it. Only a few have been written about ‘the association with your name.’ The impressions you leave with other people can be lasting; when working abroad as an expert, customers will remember you.

If your name is associated with you, then why not have a second version which is easier to pronounce? Your first thought might be, well, my name is challenging or unique, which will improve my chances for people to remember me. While this sounds like a solid idea, I discovered that something else is happening in the real world. When you have a name that is difficult to pronounce for some, people will either try to avoid saying your name or not contact you at all. This can be due to the fear of being offensive or wrong pronunciation.

All this contributes to your name, either positively or negatively. Your name can be mighty in your native language. But it can be diminished when spoken in a different language and culture. The power of your name is not only in the name itself; it also resides in the pronunciation and the language it is spoken in.

You want people to be able to say your name. The more they say your name gets spoken by someone. The more potent the association within the mind. This is known as the power of repetition.

Do I need an additional English name

Initially, most readers will automatically think, ‘Well, I’m native English,’ so this does not apply to me. I will still suggest that you continue reading the rest. The trick I will teach will also apply to those born with a native English name. Your English name might sound completely different than you expect when spoken by a non-native English speaker with an accent. Even as a native English speaker, finding out if your name is good to use in international business might be a brilliant idea. So let’s get started with finding your English name.

The first and most obvious thing to learn if you require a second name is to Listen. Doing so allows others to pronounciate your name in a way that sounds natural to them. Listening to other people will give you a good indication if you need to tweak your name or you need to choose a new one, like I did. After reading this post, you will be more conscious about your name.

The second approach you can take from your computer—Google to the rescue. Google translate can help a lot in figuring out if your name is hard to pronounce by other people.

How to use Google Translate to see if you need an alternative name. It’s quite easy.

  • Open Google Translate
  • Put your own name in the left box
  • Select the language you want to test your name with
  • Click the listen button
  • Listen to how your name sounds in another language
Use Google Translate Pronunciation of your own name
Google Translate

This technique tests out your name regardless of where you come from. It allows anybody to check how their name sounds in a different language. You can always check your name for the regional pronunciations where you plan to do business.

How to choose a second name

When you have determined you might need a second name for better English communication, it’s time to find one. I have been through this entire exercise before. I will explain my approach to guide you step-by-step into finding a second name. For every name you encounter in each step, write it down.

I went through this process with my girlfriend; I suggest you do this exercise with someone close to you. When doing it with somebody close to you, there is an excellent chance of having some laughs. So that you know, this method tries to stay close to your real/legal name. I devised some rules to help you find your second name.

Steps to find your second name:

  1. Breakdown
  2. Abbreviations
  3. Alternatives
  4. History
  5. Translation

The first step I took was to do a breakdown with my name of ‘Gert-Jan’ that resulted in ‘Gert’ and ‘Jan.’ The second step in breaking down your name is to abbreviate it. When I shorten my name ‘Gert-Jan,’ it becomes ‘Gert.’ Another example of an abbreviation would be to take the name ‘Danny’ and abbreviate it to ‘Dan’ or ‘Alexander’ to ‘Alex.’

With the first two steps completed, you can start searching for alternatives. The best way to find options is to use google. If you’re not super creative, you can use this search term ‘alternative name for …’ and fill in your name. When searching for alternatives to your name, you might encounter search results related to the next step, the history of your name. Reading about your own name’s history might give insights into other names it derives from. For example, my name ‘Gert-Jan,’ then the abbreviation ‘Gert’ is derived from the old french name ‘Gerard.’ So breaking my name down and searching for abbreviations, alternatives, and even history led me to several names.

The final step is translation; this is where you can use the power of Google. Could you search for the translations of your name? For example, ‘Gert’ translated to English would become ‘Gerard.’ Search for translations. There are numerous websites dedicated to names.

Final Decision

With my girlfriend, I made a lot of use of the site behind the name. As shown, we came across several names. In the end, with the help of my girlfriend, I settled for ‘Garrett.’ Easy to pronounce in English by native and non-native English speakers. Talk about it when in doubt or having multiple choices with others, friends, family, or even colleagues.

I had a lot of fun trying to find a good name. Let’s say I did not go for the name ‘Gary’ because of a particular cartoon. Your name, has power but you must be aware of the different cultures you are interacting with. Hopefully, the insight I have shared here will help you advance in your private and professional lives.

Please comment with your thoughts if you found this helpful or if you want to take a crack at figuring out the cartoon I’m referring to. Also, please share any websites about names you found useful. If you have any ideas for posts, feel free to send me an email.

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