The translated name is quite different from the original in sound, and it might be attributed to the original sound of the word in the original language-Russian, but the same criterion will not apply to the case of the name of the sitting president of France, Macron(马克龙), which should have been 马克红 according to the pronunciation of the original language-French. So in China are there two different systems of translation?

Other examples of name mistranslations frequently found in Chinese media from mispronunciation:

Trump,correct:川普, incorrect:特朗普


Celts,correct:塞尔特人, incorrect:凯尔特人

JK Rowling, correct:劳玲, incorrect:罗琳

Jerome Salinger,correct:萨林泽,incorrect:塞林格

Henry Kissenger, correct:基辛泽, incorrect:基辛格

Elon Musk,correct:一龙马斯克,incorrect:埃隆马斯克

Andy Murray, correct:安迪默里,incorrect:安迪穆雷

Novak Djokovic,correct:焦科维奇,incorrect:德约科维奇

Eve,correct:伊芙, incorrect:夏娃

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    Your "mistranslation" and "mispronunciation" examples assume the origin is English and the translation is for Mandarin. Unfortunately, neither assumption holds true consistently.
    – xiaomy
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 19:52
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    How did you decide which is correct and which incorrect? For instance, "JK Rowling, correct:劳玲, incorrect:罗琳" seems backward to me. (In English, "Rowling" rhymes with "Bowling (ball)", not with "Howling (wolf)".) Similarly the "incorrect" Kissinger sounds more correct. As for Macron, why not "Róng"? Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 0:41
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    @RayButterworth You can find out whether Rowling is R-au-ling or R-ou-ling from BBC Radio 4, which is what I did a while back. "R" in French sounds like "H" of Pinyin, that's why I think 红 is closer to the original than 龙. Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 6:36
  • @xiaomy That makes sense. Would you point out which of the above is not English in origin? Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 6:38
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    I am French and I find that 龙 is much easier to pronounce / closer to usual French sounds than both 红 and 荣, so it fits a transcription from French much better.
    – Stef
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 7:25

3 Answers 3


Putin (Путин) is pronounced as /ˈputʲin/ in Russian. Note the /ʲ/ (palatalization) after the /t/.

Russian differentiates between hard and soft consonants. The soft consonants are palatalized, which means that the tongue is pushed up towards the hard palate during the articulation of the consonant.

When /t/ and /d/ are palatalized in Russian, they are also slightly affricated. The actual pronunciation of /tʲ/ and /dʲ/ are closer to [tʲ] and [dʲ] respectively. In Chinese ears, they sound like /tɕ/. That's why Putin is translated as 普京.

You can listen to the Russian pronunciation of Putin on Wiktionary.

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    Agree, a lot of Chinese translation for names of people or countries come directly from the original Language itself so they may not make sense to English speakers. In Путин‘s case, I think 普京 is a better translation phonetically than Putin( English pronunciation). For country's case, for example: Greece is 希腊(xi la)in Chinese, because it was called Ἑλλάς (Hellas) back then. Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 16:33
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    This is also true of the two transliterations of the Hebrew name חַוָּה (Ḥawwā); via Greek Εὔα and Latin Eva, we get 厄娃, as used in Catholic translations; direct from Hebrew through southern topolects (presumed from Shanghai, Ningbo, Guangzhou and Xiamen, as in the 1850s Delegates' Version), we get 夏娃, as used in many Protestant translations; from Arabic حَوَّاء we get 哈娃 as used amongst Muslims.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 16:59

It's Americanese: transpose d and t: Pudin in Americanese.

The d of Vladimir becomes 基 jī, so, to be consistent, the d of -din (= -tin) in Pudin becomes 京 jīng


fúlājīmiěr pǔjīng



Some of your examples make sense, but there are also some that I am not sure whether your correct/incorrect is justified. I would just explain what I know about translating foreign names.

it might be attributed to the original sound of the word in the original language-Russian

This is what translation tries to stick to. If Macron is not translated this way (i.e., w.r.t. French pronunciation) then it is incorrect, given that if Macron is a native last name in France. <- Right, this is also often in consideration, that names originating from the same name often have only one translation. I am not sure if this is specifically related to this case, just thought about this and FYI.

In some other cases, the correct original pronunciation does not have an exact mapping in Mandarin, so there is some convention for translating them into something that sounds similar. Note that "similar" might be different w.r.t. original language's speaker vs. Chinese speaker. E.g., a Chinese speaker might think "thank" sounds like "sank", while many English speakers think it sounds like "tank".

Plus, sometimes, the translation was not done to Mandarin, but to Cantonese. Then Mandarin users just used the translated Chinese characters as is, resulting in strange pronunciation.

At the end of the day, what we need is a translation that is somewhat related to the original pronunciation, does not have overwhelming indications, and all users agree upon it. Some translations were not correct, pronunciation-wise, due to the limitations of the translator. However, once conventionalized, it is the de facto standard and it is correct.

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    Those who pronounce "thank" as "tank" are most probably South Asian people, like Indians, Pakistani or Bangali. The examples I listed in my original post are all in Putonghua or Mandarin, and whether there are such cases in Cantonese, I will keep an eye on that. Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 13:53
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    The Irish often say, "Tank you very much!" "I tink you are right!" "I'm gonna take a bat." (bath). Maybe you know the old joke: 2 Irishmen are looking for work in Canada (加拿大). They see a sign: tree-fellers wanted. Sean says, "Hey Paddy, dat might be sumtink for us!" Paddy says, "No, dey want tree fellers, but there's only 2 of us!"
    – Pedroski
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 21:35
  • @NanningYouth There are native English speakers who told me "thank" sounds more similar to "tank" than "sank".
    – 王博龙
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 7:55
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    @NanningYouth The fact that the transliterations are used in Mandarin does not mean that they originated in Mandarin. Many of the characters now used as standard correspondences to transliterate especially English words originated in Cantonese, Min or other southern Chinese languages. Such transliterations were then borrowed wholesale into Mandarin, and from that the individual characters gradually became standard for particular sounds, even if Mandarin happens to have closer correspondences. Using 夏 for ha is a good example: 夏威夷 makes no sense as Xiàwēiyí, but Haa⁶ wai¹ ji⁴ works. Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 13:54

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