Should we translate proper names? Yes or no?

Let’s look at an example. Imagine that Prince William and Kate Middleton are visiting the Spanish royal family. Can you imagine everyone calling them ‘Guillermo’ and ‘Catalina’ during their stay? Both would probably be surprised to start with and they may or may not find it amusing. So, should proper names be translated? Let us tell you what we think at Okodia translation services.
In most cases, proper names should not be translated. Imagine the chaos and confusion that would be caused if your name is Henry but in Madrid they call you Enrique and in Barcelona they know you as Enric. That’s one of the reasons why proper names are often not translated. However, there are exceptions.

When are proper names translated?

Have you ever noticed when reading a book written in another language that the proper names have been translated? In literary translations this usually makes sense, more than anything because that way the names reflect those used in the country where the book will be sold. However, there are examples where, for example, the name refers to a character’s qualities, as is the case for Asterix and Obelix. Did you know that the name Asterix refers to an ‘asterisk’ precisely because of the size of that character and that Obelix refers to an ‘obelisk’ because Obelix is large?

So then what do we do? Following the advice of the Royal Academy of Spain can help us out when we are unsure about what to do. For the first and last names of foreigners, the Royal Academy advises using the first and last names they use in their countries of origin.
So, should proper names be translated? This is at the discretion of the professional translator. When it is a literary or audio-visual translation it is likely that the names will be translated depending on their meaning and context, but this is not always the case.