Notebook list of baby name ideas
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Tips for Choosing a Bilingual Baby Name

Choosing a baby name is hard.

It’s one of the first big decisions you make when you’re pregnant that will affect your kid for the rest of their life. If you name them something totally horrible, you’re in for a lifetime of regret. Maybe their name is so popular that every other child in their class has the same one and they have to write their last name initial on every piece of paper they turn in. Or, it could swing the other way and their name could be so obscure that your kid is never able to find a hat with their name on it at Disney World. Both scenarios are equally as concerning (because everyone needs personalized Mickey ears).

 

Choosing a bilingual baby name is even harder.

couple holding personalized mugs

When I lived in Spain, I always introduced myself with, “Hola, soy Reich-el.” Rolling that beginning “R” as it crossed my lips and then explaining, “Como la chica de Friends” just came with the territory of living abroad. Or, after telling someone my name was Reich-el, there were always the Spaniards who replied, “Ah, mucho gusto Raquel.” So my options were to either pronounce my name in the most ridiculous way possible, or to change it all together. Yeah, it was a pain, but I’ll forgive my parents for not knowing when I was born that I would abandon America for four years and need a bilingual name.

Once my husband and I moved to the US, he felt my pain as Juan became Wan. It hasn’t happened yet, but heaven help the person who meets him and responds, “Oh, hey John.” No, we couldn’t knowingly put our future child through that.

When I found out I was pregnant, my first instinct was to go full Spanish with the name. But then I remembered poor Reich-el and Wan and cringed as I imagined our baby having to explain to her kindergarten class how to pronounce “Arantxa:

Teacher: Now everyone, let’s welcome our new student. Her name is… [teacher has a puzzled look on her face as she attempts to read student’s name from class roster]
My kid: Arantxa. My name is Arantxa.
Teacher: Archnid?
My kid: No, Arantxa.
Teacher: Ara-cha-cha?
My kid: WHY MOM, WHY?!?!

We soon decided that for us, a name that would work in both English and Spanish was the way to go. Before we knew if we were having a boy or a girl, Juan and I (let’s be real, it was mainly me) started making lists of our bilingual baby name options.

We wanted the name to:

  1. Be easy to say in both English and Spanish
  2. Sound somewhat similar in both languages
  3. Not be a dead giveaway what nationality our child was

My short list of girl names was more like a very long list, but I struggled to come up with boy names that I really loved and that also followed our “rules.” Some of our favorite girl names were:

  • Adela
  • Valeria
  • Olivia
  • Celia
  • Emilia

Because the universe knew that we had lots of strong girl name contenders and very few boy name ideas, of course we found out that we would be having a boy (and could not have been happier!). We had to dig deep, but after lots of brainstorming sessions, we finally came up with a list of great bilingual boy name options:

  • Sebastian
  • Elias
  • Daniel
  • Lucas
  • Samuel
  • Nicolas

  Pregnant belly and choosing bilingual baby names

Although a perfectly wonderful name, I refused to name our child Nicolas, as I have an unreasonable aversion to Mr. Cage, so we debated the other five names for a few weeks. In the end, we chose Samuel and now that I know the little guy, I can’t imagine him with any other name.

When choosing a bilingual baby name, it is really up to you and your partner if you prefer to lean towards one language or another, or if you would rather split the difference and find a name that works in both worlds. Who knows, maybe our next baby (not any time soon please) will be an Aitana or Wyatt…we’ll make that decision when that day comes.

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