Accents on Hispanic names in Spanish units

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brett.g.morrison.ppm
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Accents on Hispanic names in Spanish units

#1

Post by brett.g.morrison.ppm »

Hello fellow forum users,

I'm a branch clerk for a US Spanish branch. I'm also a Spanish proofreader and translator by profession.

Recently, I was told to keep our records (and names on records) as accurate as possible in a stake training. I approached the stake clerk about the numerous accents and tildes missing on probably 60%-70% of the records for our branch. He suggested I come here and ask whether it is appropriate to add the missing diacritical marks so that the names are more accurate, something I consider very important.

There are many reasons why these records don't have the accents. Some of our clerks in the past didn't know how to change keyboard languages or how to add an accent on an English keyboard when entering convert names. Some of our members were attending an English unit before this unit was created and so, naturally, the English-speaking clerk wouldn’t have put the accent. Knowing when to put an accent can be tricky for second-language learners, or even for some native speakers with limited educational opportunities in Spanish.

At work, every month, I put accents and tildes on hundreds upon hundreds of Hispanic names that don't have them, so maybe I'm a little OCD about this, but it drives me crazy to see some of these names with no accents, or worse, with accents that were put in wrong in the system.

The only drawback I can see to adding accents and tildes is that the Church's search engine does not currently bring up names when they have accents and they are not typed in, or names without accents when they are typed in. Pretty much all large search engines (Google, Facebook, etc.) get around that by using formulas that allow for both names with accents and without to show up. For example, if I type "José Peña" into LCR or MLS I won't get results for "Jose Pena" or vice versa ("Jose Pena" won't give results for "José Peña"), whereas if I was in Google or Facebook I would get results for both.

In summary, I personally think the accents need to be there, especially if Spanish is their first language. In some cases, they already are from their home country, but in many, many cases, they are not. And secondly, is there a place I can submit the search engine problem to the Church developers so they can modify their search formulas so that results include names with both accents and no accents whether they are typed in or not? Pretty much every decent search engine these days has this function and is important if, say, a member from Nicaragua whose records we transferred here to our branch and already had the accents correctly put on, decided to go to a nearby English ward, instead. They would have a really hard time finding his name because it wouldn't show up unless the English-speaking clerk knew how to put accents on his name, assuming the membership number wasn't available. And doing tithing in an English-speaking ward and trying to search his name in MLS would be an odious task.

Anyway, your thoughts are appreciated.
"si deseamos tener la compañía del Maestro y la influencia del Espíritu Santo, debemos ser sinceros con nosotros mismos, y honrados con Dios y con nuestro prójimo"
russellhltn
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Re: Accents on Hispanic names in Spanish units

#2

Post by russellhltn »

brett.g.morrison.ppm wrote:Recently, I was told to keep our records (and names on records) as accurate as possible in a stake training.
You make some good points, but I want to address what's meant by "accurate".

Handbook 1: 13.6.1 indicates that the full name is to match their legal name. This creates a bit of a issue, because the legal name (particularly for someone born in the US) may not have those accent marks. The preferred name can be done however the member wants it to be.

Doing a quick Google furnished some nice examples. The baseball player Miguel González was born in Mexico, but Adrian Gonzalez was born in the US and might not be happy if you changed his last name. So you'd have to do some homework on each individual to determine how the name should be spelled before updating.
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brett.g.morrison.ppm
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Re: Accents on Hispanic names in Spanish units

#3

Post by brett.g.morrison.ppm »

So, just to make sure I understand, if I know they're from another country, I should write the name the way it would be written correctly in that country? For example, say we have a member from Perú whose last name is Dominguez in the system. I know for a fact that it is really Domínguez since Spanish names are, for the most part, very black and white when it comes to accent placement. In that case it really doen't even make sense, in my opinion, for me to have to bother them about whether they'd like me to add accents on their names, assuming they're from another country of course, since legally their name should already have the accent. I also don't think it makes sense for me to bother them about geographical locations that should have accents and that don't, like where they were married.

And if they were born here in the US, they probably won't have an accent on their legal name, but if they want they can have the accents on their "preferred name". Is that what you suggest? So for them I should ask them what they want, say, at the tithing settlement interviews at the end of the year when we go over their records with them? Also, what counts as a legal name? What's on their green card? If they've reached US citizen status? And if they have, which legal name do I go with, the US version or their home country version? And what about families that had some of their children in another country and some here in the US? Am I supposed to put accents on just the family members born outside the US and not on the names of children born here? And another question. If they were born in the US and have accents on their names, do I undo the accents and just put them on the "preferred name"?

And one last question. Where do I go for the search engine problem I mentioned in my first post? The lds website and click feedback at the bottom?

Thank you for your comments.
Last edited by brett.g.morrison.ppm on Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"si deseamos tener la compañía del Maestro y la influencia del Espíritu Santo, debemos ser sinceros con nosotros mismos, y honrados con Dios y con nuestro prójimo"
russellhltn
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Re: Accents on Hispanic names in Spanish units

#4

Post by russellhltn »

brett.g.morrison.ppm wrote:So, just to make sure I understand, if I know they're from another country, I should write the name the way it would be written correctly in that country?
Not at all. While place of birth might be a good predictor, what I'm saying is that you can't make assumptions about what it should be. Nor would it be wise to make assumptions about how the member wants it to look. Some may want to claim their heritage, others may want to conform.

I just think it unwise to start doing mass changes of member's names without consulting with them individually. The potential for bad feelings is high.
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brett.g.morrison.ppm
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Re: Accents on Hispanic names in Spanish units

#5

Post by brett.g.morrison.ppm »

While place of birth might be a good predictor, what I'm saying is that you can't make assumptions about what it should be. Nor would it be wise to make assumptions about how the member wants it to look.
In Spanish, accent placement is yea yea or nay nay. There is no assuming and there is no, "Hmm, this person lived 40 years in Mexico and his last name is 'Perez' in the system. Should I add an accent?" There is no such thing as "Perez" in any Spanish-speaking country. 100% of the time, the right answer is "Pérez". The same holds true for 99.999% of other names in Spanish.

Now, before you cry blasfemy, I shared the baseball player example above, I understand perfectly well that it is important to find out if this person was born here or lived most of their life here and now identifies more with English cultures or is now an American citizen. Some of those people would prefer no accents. But when those three things don't apply, it just doesn't make much sense to ask. That's like if Oxford or Webster dictionaries started asking their users "Is the word 'red' spelled 'r-e-d'? This isn't like in English where names can be spelled virtually any way you want. Spanish is 1000 times more phonetic, exact, and logical orthographically speaking. And it's not like I'm going "Hmm, this person's name is spelled 'Lindsy,' but most people spell the name 'Lindsey' so I'm going to change the spelling of her name without asking". The accent placement rules are very clearcut and straight forward. When an accent is missing, you add it. The Royal Spanish Academy has standardized accent placement rules throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Quite a feat, so kuddos to them.

Currently, names are a huge mess in the system. We have some families with one spouse and some children with accents and the other spouse and rest of the children without. We have other families with half the diacritical marks on right on one last name and the rest of them are missing. We even have countries spelled wrong. Does it even make sense to ask in these cases? Obviously they want accents on their names, they just haven't got them in right.

Although several of our members are very well educated with PhDs and multiple masters, many do not have hardly any education. In fact, some members don't even know how to write or read in our branch. In my mind, if they don't meet the "born here, or lived here most their life and now identify more with English than Spanish cultures, or are now a US citizen," then it makes no sense to ask them. Accents are just that way. And if they did identify more with English-speaking cultures, wouldn't they be going to an English unit anyway since they can choose? It would take months upon months just find everyone and ask "Hey, I know your name is missing an accent so checkmark here if you want it". And if they said no out of ignorance? Many native speakers don't understand how accent placement works and it is a pain to explain it. Their name would be wrong and more than likely at odds with their legal name, since the accent rules are pretty well black and white. From a grammar standpoint, the names without accents are plain and simply incorrect, again, unless the "born here, or lived here most their life and now identify more with English than Spanish cultures, or are now a US citizen" applies, in which case, I would ask them.

This is my opinion, but based upon my experience, I feel it is what makes sense and is the best option. Any additional comments are welcome. Perhaps there is something I haven't considered?
"si deseamos tener la compañía del Maestro y la influencia del Espíritu Santo, debemos ser sinceros con nosotros mismos, y honrados con Dios y con nuestro prójimo"
russellhltn
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Re: Accents on Hispanic names in Spanish units

#6

Post by russellhltn »

I would discuss your plan with the Branch President. Perhaps even talk to the Stake Clerk who is responsible for your training.
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lyzettealexandria@yahoo.com
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Re: Accents on Hispanic names in Spanish units

#7

Post by lyzettealexandria@yahoo.com »

I'm a native from Honduras, C.A. I came to the U.S. when I was eleven, and went through the U.S. school system from 4-12 grade. My name is Maria Alejandrina (accent on the i in Maria), I was known to all as Alejandrina. My teacher could not say it, so my father said, "Call her Janda", a nickname for Alejandrina given to me by one of my sister. Every homework paper I got back, for quite sometime, had Janda crossed out and Honda written next to it. I didn't speak English and the Honda stuck until I was out of high school. There are yearbooks that say Honda Ramos. Boys saying crude things to me, such as, "Honda, take me for a ride." It has always bothered me. My high school sweetheart and I got married, and I asked him to introduce me as Maria as we moved on.

Names are extremely important. As a Spanish and English teacher, I have found that natives feel a sense of pride when I explain that their names carry accents or tildes, and are bothered by people not making the effort to pronounce their names correctly. For example: Hector, silent H, not pronounced with a G or J sound, just "ector".

I know correcting names would be very time consuming, but kudos to you for the effort. God bless you, stay strong.

Maria Alejandrina Alberto Ramos de Cummings
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