5

I noticed that there are German friends who have such English-like names. I pronounce these names in English as:

  • Zoe(y): ZO-ee, /zoːi/
  • Lucy: LOO-see, /luːsi/
  • Amy: AY-mee, /eimi/
  • Stella: STEL-ə, /stelə/

In German, does anything differ or not? How do I pronounce them as German names? For example Amy → /ami/, Stella → /ʃtela/, etc. as far as I imagine.

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    Zöö, Lutzie, Ammie, Schtella. – Robert Dec 10 '17 at 5:20
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    If you ask for reasonably educated speakers and serious situations, then Robert's answer is wrong. – clemens Dec 10 '17 at 10:12
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    Other readers, please be advised, Robert's comment is hilarious, but it is ironic. – Christian Geiselmann Dec 10 '17 at 12:02
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    There should be no difference, but I noticed that many Germans have big problems pronouncing names ending on -ey, like Wesley, Disney, etc. They pronounce them like Weslay, Disnay, etc. – Rudy Velthuis Dec 10 '17 at 23:33
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    @RudiVelthuis they will also say /stela/ instead of /stelə/, /zoːi/ instead of /zoui/ and /emi/ instead of /eimi/, but that's just them pronouncing English the German way, not a specific German rendering of the names. – sgf Dec 11 '17 at 9:46
8

English names are pronounced the English way, just as you described. (Another example is Justin)

This is also true for most names from other languages. Just when such names contain consonants or vowels that are not used in German, they are replaced by sounds that are common in German.

German has a long tradition of importing words from any other languages, and very often people try to stay close to the original pronunciation. (This depends on whether the word entered German vocabulary as spoken word or as written word.) Words like the english Baby, or the french Chef are pronounced very similar to the original pronunciation, and we do the same with names.

The English Jute is one of the rare examples of words that came into the German vocabulary as a written word. It is pronounced like it was a German word ([ˈjuːtə], not [ʤuːt]), and most German native speakers are not even aware, that this is an English word (which itself has its origin in the Odia langage).

Also some brand names (like Colgate and Michelin) are pronounced as if they was German words, but only in Germany. Producers of TV-commercials decided to use German pronunciation for those names, and so people in Germany learned this kind of pronunciation. But those commercials was not broadcasted in Austria. Commercials produced for Austria used the original (i.e. English and French) pronunciation, and for this reason you can hear those original pronunciations when you listen to German native speakers form Austria.

Also interesting is the pronunciation of Donald Duck and Goofy before the 1980ies (at least in Austria, I have no knowledge about the situation in Germany or Switzerland). There was no spoken commercials for Disney Comics, and those both names was not translated into German (for example: Mickey Mouse and Scrooge McDuck was translated to Micky Maus and Dagobert Duck). English as a second language was not very common in those days, and so people pronounced the names with German rules: Duck rhymed to the english took (like in "he took a photo"), and Goofy had the same vowels that appear in office. But then more and more people learned English, and now only old people (65+) still use the German pronunciation for Disney Characters. The big majority now uses a pronunciation that is very close to the original one (just with the expectable German accent). (But Uncle Scrooge still is Onkel Dagobert.)

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    Stella stands out here because it also exists as a German name. It is rare, but there is a tragedy of Goethe with that name. So this name may in fact be pronounced /ʃtela/, For the others, it appears quite pointless to pronounce them as German names. – RHa Dec 9 '17 at 23:07
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    It's very interesting that German differs from many other languages. For instance English or French speakers pronounces always with their emphasis while German speakers always try to pronounce names in the foreign language. – clemens Dec 10 '17 at 9:39
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    @RHa: No, Stella is not a German name even if that's the name of a German drama. The name comes from Latin and means star (Stern). In addition, many German speakers would probably also take into account the country of origin of the person bearing this name. But probably nobody in the Rhineland, where st is often pronounced as scht, would pronounce Stella (analogous to Stein) as Schtella. – clemens Dec 10 '17 at 10:02
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    @clemens That the name comes from Latin doesn't mean it's not a German name. Most German names come from other languages. – RHa Dec 10 '17 at 10:44
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    @RudyVelthuis Sunlight used to be massacred by the vendor themselves already in 1899 who changed it to "Sunlicht" when they founded their German branch. Don't blame the language here. – tofro Dec 11 '17 at 8:56
11

The appropriate thing to do would be to ask them. People with "foreign" names often want their name pronounced differently than German-speakers might otherwise pronounce them.

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    Or is it the other way round? I know many cases where people have given up on asking poeple to pronounce their names correctly (correctly in the sense of "as the name-bearer prefers" or "as in the language of origin") because people just continue pronounce names like they are used to or along the patterns they are used to. I know people with foreign names who have settled to accept their names being completely distorted just because they got tired of telling everybody how to pronounce it correctly. – Christian Geiselmann Dec 10 '17 at 12:19
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    @ChristianGeiselmann Even if someone has given up correcting people and got used to the 'wrong' pronunciation, they will still appreciate somebody trying to get it right. – PiedPiper Dec 10 '17 at 21:38
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    @PiedPiper - Yes, absolutely. That's where my comment was heading to (but did not fully get). - By the way, one prominent example is the Turkish family name of Özdemir which should be pronounced with a voiced "s" for the "z" (like in organization), but Germans, even radio presenters, most of the time get it wrong by pronouncing z as in German Zunge, although the name appears virtually every single day in the news (due to the Green party co-president by that name). – Christian Geiselmann Dec 11 '17 at 13:52
  • @ChristianGeiselmann I hear the "Ötz-" pronunciation so regularly that I'm starting to wonder if that's maybe the way he actually wants it. I assume TV and radio newsreaders have lists of the right way to pronounce names – PiedPiper Dec 11 '17 at 18:07
  • Thank you! My french-canadian wife is the only non German person in North America who pronounces my first name correctly (at least so it seems to me :-)). It also gets butchered in emails on a regular basis. Even in Germany - South of the Weißwurschtäquator I'm always "Stefan". I can give people my business card and they spell my name wrong. I don't know what it is with names. – Steffen Roller Dec 11 '17 at 23:11
2

The problem is, that from reading the names, English pronounication seems somewhat arbitrary and far from compelling:

  • Stella is Latin or Italian
  • Amy has French origin
  • Zoe is Greek
  • Lucy orginates also from Latin and was quite popular in Germany at the end of the 19th century; with Luzie an adapted spelling is available.

I see no choice but to ask the name holder, as @PiedPiper suggest.

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