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Question

How to Romanize "شایق" in order to be easiest to an English speaker?

Description

I am Iranian; my last name is شایق (Persian). To get a passport, it is needed to submit your full name in English. There are two options for my last name; Shayegh and Shayeq. Most of Iranians choose "gh" to represent "ق" but I know that a typical English speaker will be confused when faced with this diagraph. On the other hand, there are some Arabic and Persian names that has been Romanized by "q" for example: "قرآن" to "Quran", "قطر" to "Qatar" and "شایق" (it is a village in Iran, but my family name is not related to it)to "Shayeq". To sum up I know that "gh" is much more familiar for Iranians, but "q" may convince more universal audience.

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    English speakers are perfectly used to the digraph gh – it occurs frequently in native words. What they’re not used to is gh and q being interchangeable, since there are no cases of English words (that I know of) where gh and q represent the same sound. Gh can represent vowel lengthening, [g], [f], [x], etc., while q can represent [k(w)] and [tʃ]. Some people might pronounce the [x] in lough as [k] which would give one single point of overlapping, but still, English speakers would not know how to pronounce gh/q in a foreign word knowing that both can be variants of each other. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 18 '20 at 12:14
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Gh would be preferable to q in my opinion.

In Iranian Persian, q̈âf has merged with ġayn, both representing a [ɣ]~[ɢ], sound. While this sound doesn’t exist in English, the closest sound is certainly [g], which is how a terminal gh would naturally be pronounced here.

The use of q is more for etymological purposes (to distinguish q̈âf from ġayn). However an English speaker would pronounce a terminal q as a [k]. The Arabic [q] sound doesn’t exist in English either.

Your third option is to just use g, like the Ghayn in Gaza, but gh is common enough (Baghdad, Maghreb, etc) that it shouldn’t cause any confusion.

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    And for people who are a little more linguistically aware, a phonotactially slightly disallowed [ʃaɪˈɛ(ː)ɣ] would probably be the most likely pronunciation of Shayegh, which I’m guessing would be more or less as close as you’re likely to get with an English speaker who doesn’t know the language. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 18 '20 at 21:38
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Why is it slightly disallowed? – Alish Aug 20 '20 at 6:19
  • @Alish Because /ɣ/ is not a phoneme (or even phone) in English, and /ɛː/ doesn’t appear in most dialects either. Most native English speakers will have no trouble with the latter (even though it doesn’t appear in native words), but many might not even be able to produce the former easily. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 20 '20 at 6:22
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    @Alish Yes, [g] would be most likely. If that phoneme in Persian is /ɢ/ (a uvular g), then no, there is no corresponding English phoneme, and most English speakers would find it very difficult to produce since English has no uvular phonemes at all. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 20 '20 at 6:36
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    Further (anecdotal) evidence to support the idea that "gh" will be pronounced [g]: my Iranian wife's name begins with غ, which she spells "Gh." One hundred percent of Americans who don't know Farsi pronounce it [g]. – Juhasz Aug 26 '20 at 18:20
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For what it’s worth, since you mention a passport, ICAO 9303, Part 3, Section 6C details the required transliteration of Arabic for the Machine Readable Zone of travel documents, and using a different transliteration elsewhere (other than the removal of Xs) could cause confusion when they don’t match, such as when applying for visas.

I don’t know Arabic script at all myself, but the letter you seem to be asking about looks like the one they call “qaf” and transliterate as “Q”.

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To transcribe written letter in arabic [q] is the usual. Otherwise you are trancribing the actualisation of [q] in Persian and one needs to hear it to make the better choice. Anyway if [q] has merged with gh you are close to french [R] which is uvular. I would stick to (IPA)[q] that relates to the written version since you will have to repeat your name orally and not everybody will be able to say it like in Iran anyway. Good Luck

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