Monday 16 March 2015

The bilingual baby name debate

             D Tj M Ec

Having a baby brings such excitement and joy but with it also comes the dilemma of choosing a name. It's such a big, important decision and cannot be taken lightly. At almost 30 weeks pregnant, I am in the middle of this challenging, decision-making process myself. It would be easy if it was just my decision to make, but it isn't. Obviously my husband will be joint decision-maker and this is where the challenge of being part of a multicultural family can really materialise.

Growing up in England, I always had some names I liked stored in the back of my mind ready for when the time came for me to start a family. Then, I converted to Islam and married a Kurdish man and suddenly I realised my name choices had to change. And they changed in a big way. My main criterion was that the name should be an Islamic name with a good meaning. My husband wanted to Turkish or Kurdish name and this fit in well with my requirement of an Islamic name as many Turkish and Kurdish names have Islamic origins.

So, we had established this but then more challenges arose. Should we chose a name that is similar in Turkish/Kurdish and English? Would a foreign name prove difficult for people to pronounce? Would it sound odd? How should we spell the name? You see, there are some letters which are pronounced differently in Turkish and English, 'c' for example is pronounced as 'j' in Turkish. Should we use the English spelling or the Turkish or the Kurdish spelling? So many things to think about!

I know many people worry about choosing a name that is foreign to the place where they live. They want to choose an English-sounding name. But, I can honestly speak from experience of this as my name has an unusual spelling (it's Polish and the 'w' is pronounced as a 'v'), I really haven't found it a problem. Yes people may say my name wrong the first time they see it written down, but I tell them how it's pronounced and then it's fine after that. It's not an issue at all. I really wonder why some parents worry about this so much, but I guess it is a parent's job to worry, isn't it?

Another difficulty is the challenge of trying to keep both sets of parents happy. If you give your child a name that is not familiar to your parents, this can sometimes cause issues. I have had the issue of family members Englishifying my children's names. They normally stop after a while, as they get used to the  name. However, if they do not, you may like to give them a gentle reminder that that is not actually your child's name! One thing I would recommend though, is to pick a name that both sets of  parents and families can actually pronounce!

I do think people in multicultural families should worry less about others people's opinions when choosing a name for their child. As long as you like the name and it's not offensive in either culture then it isn't a problem. That is my opinion anyway.

What kind of challenges have you faced when choosing a name for your baby?



  1. I have a British-only background but no one can spell/pronounce my name, but at least it has got me remembered! When choosing my son's name I was determined to make life a bit easier for him and give him a name that everyone 'got' straight away.

    1. Yes even "English" names sometimes have different spellings nowadays.

  2. As an international family, we wanted a name that sounded good in my country, hubby's country and also in the UK. It was quite hard at first to get a name that suited all countries x

    1. It is difficult. Did you manage to find one to suit all 3 countries in the end?

  3. when we were thinking of names for my son i knew it would have to be a kurdish name as my hubs just couldnt picture his child having an english was too weird for him. i was more than happy to chose a kurdish name as they are mostly lovely names with great meanings and also we wanted to honour those children who werent allowed to be officially given a kurdish name by dictatorship govts. i knew it had to begin with Z because all the names i loved began with Z and i wanted it to be something simple to pronounce and i spelt it english phonetically too (as the english spelling of his name will only be used by non kurdish ppl.) i think ultimately it has to b a name you and your hubby love! good luck choosing!

    1. My daughter's name is Kurdish and my son's name is Arabic. My husband has his heart set on a Kurdish name this time but I swear the names he likes are not even names, I'm sure he's made them up! lol


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