• Yelena McCafferty

What’s in my name?

Updated: Jan 11

To the uninitiated it is quite confusing how come one Russian name can have so many spellings in English. Take mine, for example. In Russian it appears as ‘Елена’. As you can see, the Russian language uses a totally different alphabet with 33 letters in total. Because it is different, there are a variety of ways of writing it using a Latin-based alphabet. In English, the closest version pronunciation-wise is Yelena, this is also the one the British Embassy uses for issuing visas to Russians. However, in a Russian international passport the same name will appear as Elena, which is the closest version spelling-wise. In my experience of translating Russian certificates into English, I have also had to write this very name as Jelena, because the customer used this spelling on all other UK documents. The English equivalent, of course, is Helena.

That’s just one example. Alexander, Aleksander, Aleksandr and Alexandr also refer to the same male name in Russian spelt as ‘Александр’. To make things worse, the old Russian-Soviet system used French transliteration for international passports, so the same name would be written as Alexandre.

Needless to say how much hassle you can get into trying to convince foreign authorities that you are who you say you are when your passport gives one name and your visa – another. For this very reason I always double-check with our customers what version of their name they would prefer on their translated birth certificates and other official documents. You use it and you stick to it! Makes life much easier…

[Tip: If you have any Russian translation requirements, call us on 0207 0436940 or email enquiry@talkrussian.com]