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Though “费奥伦庭那” is sometimes used, it is not nearly as common as "佛罗伦萨".

When the name of a place is translated into Chinese, why do people not use the most close pronounciation?

Another example is 亚特兰大, as a translation of Atlanta, is not as accurate as 阿塔兰塔 pronounciation-wise.

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    note Italian name Firenze closer to 佛罗伦萨, feminine 1st name Florence 弗洛伦斯, choice influenced by Latin (or other)origin, cf. John 约翰,Paul 保罗,regarding 亚特兰大 cf。Abraham 亚伯拉罕 – user6065 Feb 20 at 12:57
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    There is another fantasy traslation: 翡冷翠 by 徐志摩 – Jacob Feb 20 at 13:04
  • Fiorentina apparently most widely used in name of prof. football club ACF Fiorentina, relationship to greater usage frequency city name Firence may explain Chinese naming – user6065 Feb 20 at 13:36
  • You said sometimes used, could you give some examples that 费奥伦庭那 represent Florence? 费奥伦庭那 corresponding (ACF) Fiorentina -- a football team name. – Voyager Feb 22 at 23:40
  • For example, see sports.sina.com.cn/global/9909/144733.shtml. I was asking about Fiorentina instead of Florence. – Zuriel Feb 23 at 1:18
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Chinese 佛罗伦萨 fololunsa
Italian Firenze  [ˈfire̞nt̪s̠e̞]
English Florence /ˈflɒrəns/ 
Latin flōrentīna /fjo.renˈti.na/ etymology from flōrēns (“flowering”).

As above, 佛罗伦萨 is translate from English pronunciation.

Why not from Italian (翡冷翠,still in use today for some literary effect) or from Latin(费奥伦庭那 as you typed)?

中国人谙英文者多,而习小语种者少,欧美许多非英语国家地名往往从英语转译,不是直接从该国语言译>来,例如慕尼黑由英文的转写(transliteration)munich而来,而非来自原名München[1]

详情请看翡冷翠 vs. 佛罗伦萨:译音及其原则, It's very long.

Why 亚特兰大 not 阿塔兰塔 ?

In fact, I think 鱫ai脦te兰lān踏tà is most close to English pronounciation. Completely transliterating results some weird words like 鱫脦兰踏. And for the perspective of specification, something like 英汉译音表 is a good choice.[2]英汉译音表 . And the previous link is also helps a lot in this question.

Reference

  1. http://www.cnki.com.cn/Article/CJFDTotal-YWJZ201002040.htm (sorry you probably cannot download it)
  2. picture comes from 世界人名翻译大辞典>附录二:译音表

notice, I am not professional.

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China famous modern translator Yan Fu 严复 (1854-1-8-1921-10-27) define a widely acceptable translation methodologies when translate foreign literacy to mandarin, it is summaries as 信达雅.

Translated outcome must be

  • 信 accurate and with integrity
  • 达 conduct the message fluently
  • 雅 Elegant

To fulfill above all three requirements, the translator must also mastered their own mother tongue language. Variables such as origin literacy language and the translator use of dialect are not defined.

When a Southerner Chinese translate Florence to 佛罗伦萨 , it fulfill the above requirements. Since there are many dialect in China, the later translator will use the most common version of translated naming to avoid confusion.

Nevertheless, those rules are not always follow by "late comer" or due to different ideology. I.e. many translator in mainland China doesn't follow the common terms used by Taiwan, Hong Kong.

For example, something like 阿塔兰塔 is considered very bad translation. Because 塔 means pagoda. Since Altlanta is a city, it is rather confus to name it such. On the other hand 亚特兰大 is much fluent and elegant, anyone look at the name will think about something "big" (亚特兰[大]), i.e. a city. 亚 is preferable compare to 阿/雅/涯 due to fluency , elegant and literacy habits reason.

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As a more general answer to the question "Why is this transliterated as X (which doesn't sound as close) instead of as Y (which sounds closer)?", I would just point out that many words were first transliterated into or from Cantonese (and thus uses the Cantonese pronunciation for comparing sound similarity).

Take words like 吉他 (guitar), 的士 (taxi), and 巴士 (bus) which sound much closer to English when pronounced with Cantonese pronunciation, even though these are still legitimate words in Mandarin.

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