7 January 2005 2005 nian 1 yue 7 hao

Editorial: My Chinese Name

You could say I'm quite experienced at choosing chinese names, since I myself have had many. Choosing a name in a foreign language is a process fraught with difficulty, and in this article I will describe the difficulties which I have encountered.

The first question, however, is whether it is really necessary to choose a foreign name at all. After all, your original name is the one that will always be your "real" name in most people's eyes. And there are many complications to having two names: which name should you use for what function, and what if those functions overlap? You many one day find yourself wondering, did I open that bank account under my english name or my chinese name? I also remember an embarrassing situation where somebody asked my name and I told them my chinese name, after which they immediately enquired "And do you have a chinese name?"

But if you try to stick to just your original name, you may ironically end up with much more, because unless you have a name like May which (approximately) fits chinese phonology then most chinese speakers will be unable to accurately pronounce your name and will render it into a chinese version that may or may not be the same as what the last person called you. And if they have to write your name down, some people will simply transcribe your name into chinese characters in whatever way they see fit. Trying to get a clerk to record your name using the english alphabet can cause quite a fuss, especially if the system is computerised.

Incidently, the converse situation is no better: most english speakers cannot accurately pronounce chinese names. Perhaps this explains why so many chinese choose english names when they stay in an english-speaking country, whereas this is less common for visitors or immigrants from many other countries. However, I do not think this can be explained by linguistics alone. Whatever practical reasons might lie behind it, the trend of choosing an english name for oneself is already well established in China. That is not to say that everybody here has an english name, indeed far from it, but there are certainly more people who have english names than need english names. For many people, the only time they ever use their english name is in their email address!

I see it as harmless fun, for a learner of a foreign language to choose a name in that language. It's not uncommon among learners of chinese either, in fact there is even an automatic service on the internet that can generate a chinese name based on your name and birthday! That might be a fun toy, but I would never adopt a name without checking with a native chinese speaker first. When I first started taking chinese classes, I was in no hurry to find a chinese name for myself. It was about a year later, when I had come to know some native speakers, that I decided to enlist their help in choosing a name.

In China, people are usually addressed by either their surname or by their full name, with the given name used by itself only among friends. So I needed to chose a chinese surname as well as a given name. Luckily, choosing a surname was fairly straightforward. Just as many other people have done, I chose one from the relatively small pool of chinese surnames based on the first sound in my english surname, "Owen". I chose Ou. As for the rest of the name, I did not try to make it relate to my english name in any way. The way I saw it, that would only limit my choices. If I was going to have a chinese name, I might as well have a proper name that could stand on its own two legs (figuratively speaking), not a mere shadow of my english name.

I was glad I asked my friend Amelia for help, because rather than just picking a name for me she went home and wrote down some suitable characters so that I could choose one I liked from among them. Meanwhile, I had also thought of a way to "localise" my name, by including the character nan ("south") in it to represent my Australian origin. I asked Amelia if it is okay to use this character in a name, and she reminded me that the last character of Mao Zedong's name is "east", so of course it is no problem. Then from her list, I had to choose another character to combine with nan. I liked the meaning of some of the characters, while on the other hand I liked the sound of the character jun. This means "handsome", and the thought of including this in my name seemed a bit embarrassing, like false advertising. But really, it is quite common for chinese names to include positive attributes, such as loyalty, courage, wisdom, beauty, etc. Actually, the characters which in my mind are the most embarrassing are ones like xiang and fen, which mean "fragrant" and are frequently used in girls' names. If I had a name like this, I would always be worrying that people were sniffing me to see if I really fragrant or not! (The truth is that these adjectives generally cannot be applied to people, so chinese speakers do not really react to such names in this way). In the end, I decided that the other candidates just did not appeal to my ear, so I selected Ou Junnan "Handsome South" as my chinese name:

Amelia approved of my new name, and I ended up keeping it for about two years, during which time quite a few people came to know me by it. However, problems soon became apparent. The reaction of most people on first hearing this name was a wide grin, because "south" is also a homonym for "male", meaning that my name sounded like "handsome boy". Indeed, I suspect that this impression is what tended to stick in people's heads, even after I had explained how the name was written.

So, when I was preparing to come to China, I decided to take the opportunity to start afresh with a new chinese name. I discussed it with Kiwi and some of her friends, and they came up with the suggestion Ou Junyi:

This is the same surname as before, and the second character even has the same pronounciation as before, but this jun means tall and steep (said of a mountain), or stern (said of a person). Yi means justice, or loyalty in a relationship. In fact, I was not really sure what either of these characters really meant, which made me a bit uneasy. To tell the truth, I am still not entirely sure what they mean. However, the people who chose the name assured me that it was a very suitable name for a teacher, and I accepted it.

Amelia was not disappointed to hear that I had abandoned the name which she had helped me to chose. She admitted that she had spoken to her brother in China about the name, and he thought that "handsome boy" sounded quite gay! Which just goes to show that even native speakers can make mistakes when choosing a name. Amelia herself is cursed with a chinese name that many people think is more suitable for a boy.

Winter Babies

A pattern that I have seen quite often in girls' names is to combine a character related to winter with a plant that grows or blossoms in winter, for example Xuemei (snow + plum blossom), Dongmei (winter + plum blossom), Hanmei (cold + plum blossom), or Xuesong (snow + pine). If a girl has a name like this, it's a fair guess that she was born in winter.

In China, I found that my english name was still the one I used for most purposes. Since most of my time was spent in the Foreign Languages Department, I did not have much need for a chinese name, and in fact I told it to so few people that in the end I became self-conscious about telling it to anyone at all. In the main, I only used it with a few friends who could not speak english.

But, unbeknownst to me, I had already gained a new chinese name on the university's files. My surname is not only quite easy to transliterate into chinese, it is also shared by famous football player Michael Owen, and so the university administration knew me as Ouwen:

After less than a year in China, I was ready for a new name. There were a few reasons for this. I had never really grown fond of Ou Junyi, and one of my friends had told me that it sounded like a Hong Kong or Taiwanese name (which was quite accurate, as Kiwi and her friends are Taiwanese). Furthermore, Ou is a surname but not a very common one. I had also come to like two character names more than three character names. But most importantly, I realised that I didn't want a completely new name after all. In Australia, having a chinese name was a way to express my interest and enthusiasm for learning chinese, but now that I was surrounded by the language every day, having an alias seemed meaningless, even a bit childish. Unlike in Australia, now I really did need a chinese name for various purposes, but a chinese name derived from my english name would be sufficient, and more convenient than having two completely separate names.

However, I was still not willing to settle for a mere transliteration of my english name, for the simple reason that I personally feel transliterated names sound ugly, and are even more ugly on paper. They are also hard for people to remember, and the fact that they have no meaning attached to them means that they don't really seem like names at all, in the chinese sense. Of course, the characters in a transliterated word are just ordinary chinese characters and each has a certain meaning, but when a person looks at a word which they know is transliterated they generally pay no attention to these meanings. Thus, the fact that Makesi (Marx) literally means "horses can think", Aodaliya (Australia) means "bay big benefit Asia", yingyu (the english language) means "hero language", and hada (from Tibetan, a ceremonial scarf used when welcoming guests) contains a character meaning "scold" causes few people to even lift an eyebrow.

So, my approach was much like the approach that many foreign companies take when they enter the chinese market: to find a name that sounds good in chinese, but is reasonably close to the pronounciation of my english name. I talked with my friend Tie Cheng, and eventually settled on the name Tao De, based on the pronounciation of my english given name "Todd":

De means moral character. From what I can work out, Tao De is a proper chinese name, but perhaps not a very good one. In China, some names quite impress people with their meaning and originality, while at the other extreme girls' names related to flowers or boys' names related to wealth strike people as not only unoriginal, but probably rural in origin as well. In fact, right from the start Tie Cheng had reservations about this name because both the syllables have rising tones. But I thought, so be it. I am, after all, a foreigner.

I quite like my new name. I always try to use it with people who don't speak english. But on the internet, even on my chinese blog, I sign everything with my "real" name, Todd.

However, China sees fit to play fast and loose with my two names. If my boss introduces me using my english name then, just like chinese whispers, I might end up being called Tou De, Tou Di, even Tou Te. Most disheartening is that even when I introduce myself as Tao De, sometimes people hear it as Cao De! I guess my pronounciation still needs some improvement. I keep hoping that someone will call me "Little Tao", but my boss's mother doubles my name instead and affectionately calls me Taotao, which with her accent sounds like Toto.

This article is dedicated to the following students from my old classes: Apple (all three), Baby, Boney Blue, Botton, Breeze, Bubble, Chear, Cinderella, Coffee, Echo, Eleven, Elite, Freedom, Goblin, Happy, Honey, Karma, Mercury, Nichael, Panda, Pinky, Pudding, Queeny, Ring, Sand, Sapling, Seven, Shadow, Shy, Snake (both), Snow, Sun, Sunny, Volcano, Water, White, Wolf, Yuky, and last but not least James Jones and Robin Hood (both girls).

Hi, here's Lily.
I like your newest Chinese name, 摡, and it does make sense in Chinese positively, a little bit like 摡揘Taozhe, a pop singer from Hong Kong.
09.01.2005 , 23:12

Sorry, 摡揘 Tao Zhe is taiwanese. With Taiwan in my mind, the words on the screen turned out to be Hong Kong. Perhaps, I haven't sleep very well these days. :)
10.01.2005 , 16:28

Hi Todd, I think there is way too much going into this name business. I was assigned a Chinese name by the authorities, and for better or worse it has stuck by me.
As far as my "English" name goes, most English speakers (invoking the myth and ghostly spirit of the received pronunciation speaker) cannot get that right so I am not even gonna ask anyone else to do so.
However your discourse is fascinating I think: it made me think a lot about the value of a name, especially as your site now demads one.
Daniel [homepage]
19.01.2005 , 07:35

BTW, when I say there's too much going into the meaning of names, that's just my personal opinion of course. I'm just thinking about a number of my Chinese friends who like to change their English name everytime they hear one they like better.
Daniel [homepage]
20.01.2005 , 16:59

You mean people have trouble pronouncing "Daniel", or is it "Duprie" that trips people up? Personally, I get my first name spelt "Tod" sometimes, and my surname pronounced "Owens", so yeah, even with speakers of the same language you can have some trouble.

I remember that a chinese student called "Ellen" left a comment on John Pasden's chinese blog. Studying in the US, she got herself a boyfriend called "Allen", and all her chinese friends insisted that she change her name because they just couldn't distinguish it from her fella's name. But Americans, she assures us, can easily tell the two apart. Well, I don't know whether that's true or not, but personally I pronounce Ellen and Allen exactly the same in _most_ contexts. I would pronounce Ellen with an "e" as in "ex" if I was telling this story verbally, and people listening would be able to hear the different (if they were native speakers), but I think that pronounciation sounds a bit affected.

On a related note (since I seem to be in a linguistic mood tonight), I think I pronounce "accept" and "except" identically in many contexts as well. There are also some words which I pronounce with one less syllable than many english learners (eg. "especially": 3 syllables or 4?). I've also known a lot of beginner learners of english to be confused when they hear a native speaker using the unstressed form of "and" or "the". All these things are challenges for english learners, but most native speakers are not even aware of them.
20.01.2005 , 21:00

English speakers have a lot of problems with the spelling and pronunciation of "du Prie", coz it's of French origin. "prie" should be pronounced "pree", but usually people say, "pry", or "pray". I've given up correcting them, it's too much hassle. On the topic of native speakers, I'm really starting to think the concept is rather dubious. There is a lot of controversy about linguists including mythical speakers such as totem animals in American-Indian speech communities, but I wonder if the "native speaker of received pronunciation isn't just such a mythical creature as well. And I wonder if God is a native speaker of English and shouldn't be included into the speech community.
It can be problematic when the concept becomes seen as a prerequisite to be a teacher of a language. I'm always explaining why I'm running around with a Dutch passport. Technically, I am not a native speaker of English, but neither am I of Dutch. I grew up for a little while anyway in Friesland and my "mother's tongue" is Friesian, so that makes me a native speaker of the Friesian language. The only problem with that is I know only about 3 sentences in Friesian. On the other hand, no one has ever been able to tell, not even trained linguists, that I am not a native speaker of English (except once in my life, after I'd been to the dentist, when my Film & TV teacher thought I sounded German because the novocaine wasn't letting me pronounce "th" properly). So what does all that mean for the concept of native speaker? Should I even be teaching English? And what exactly is "English" these days? I know I'm sounding overly rhetorical, but these questions do have consequences. Ultimately the issue is the reason why I ended up in China, and not Korea (thank God).
24.01.2005 , 23:24

ONe even better solution: how about "Ou Tao De". This combine your surname as the first character, then Todd for second and third characters.
27.01.2005 , 04:29

Todd, if it's any consolation on pronounciation: in the US, I often find that 'Anita' is not understood. If I pronounce the 't', then Americans either just don't understand or translate it as 'Anisha'. I have to say it 'Anida' in order for it to register!
01.02.2005 , 06:46

I've been using 欧博恩, the Chinese name that my first professor gave me on the first day of class almost 6 years ago. I think I got fairly lucky; it's a nice enough name, even if it does clearly belong to a foreigner.

You're right about Chinese names usually being the most convenient when dealing with non-English speakers. You should hear what people do to "Brendan." The driver at the school I used to teach at called me '不赖蛋,' or something along those lines.
Brendan [homepage]
02.02.2005 , 14:01

Anita, I wonder if that means that Americans will think my name is Tott! I remember that in Australia you also used to go to a lot of effort to explain how to pronounce your surname...

Brendan, so we were once brothers, but no longer...
02.02.2005 , 23:28

i want to know a chinese name that means courage!!!!
please help me
16.02.2005 , 12:19

i want to no what my name(cheri) mean
03.03.2005 , 15:49

hi hi hi wut iz ur name
04.03.2005 , 03:36

i would like too know my nick name in chineese please thank you
Red Rakoon
04.03.2005 , 05:13

i would like to wat clare is in chineese because by bvoyfriend wantd a tatoo of my name onthis sholder
15.03.2005 , 11:45

i was just wonduering how or what my name looks like in chinsse
24.03.2005 , 08:44

Hey i wanna know how my name looks in Chinese
25.03.2005 , 13:41

could you show me how my name looks like in chinese
30.03.2005 , 12:55

could u pls show me how my name looks like in your chinese language.
NAVEEN [homepage]
01.04.2005 , 17:50

you didnt tell me anything this is a wrip of
04.04.2005 , 08:36

Please will you tell me what sign is my name, Bev or Beverley is in Chinese?
05.04.2005 , 19:55

I guess this is the dark side of "internet savvy", when pre-teens are quite capable of posting questions but incapable of reading and/or thinking about the original article (or spelling simple words correctly, for that matter).

Who are all these questions directed at, anyway? Are they directed at me, the webmaster? Chinese is not my first language, so I can't answer them without contradicting my own advice about always enlisting the help of a native speaker in selecting a chinese name. Or are these questions directed at readers of the site? Well, if any readers wish to answer, they would probably post their reply here...but nobody has. So, please don't post any more "What is my name?" questions, because NOBODY IS ANSWERING THEM.
06.04.2005 , 08:21

translate name to chinese
07.04.2005 , 08:24

19.04.2005 , 09:06

bETTY, a chinese syllable written alphabetically, such as "xin", could represent any one of several different chinese characters. To find the meaning of the name, you will need to know the original chinese characters.
22.04.2005 , 14:08

I need to know my chinese name and show it in symbols and what it means
24.04.2005 , 06:13

please can you translate my name to chinese
25.04.2005 , 18:57

how do i pronounce michael in chinese
27.04.2005 , 03:39

Please could you send me the chinese alphabet and also my name translated
07.05.2005 , 23:37

I want to know my chinese name.
10.05.2005 , 03:54

can u send me my chinese mane translated also Lauren's name translated thanks!
10.05.2005 , 07:34

I believe that "Cinderella" is usually translated as 灰姑娘 (huiguniang), literally "ash girl".
10.05.2005 , 12:36

i would like to know how do you spell my name in chinesse and how do you spell the word karma.
15.05.2005 , 01:52

How do you Spell my name Dennis Bayona?
Dennis Bayona
15.05.2005 , 13:20

Please spell Shayla Petroff in Chineese writing for me...
Jaylene Petroff
15.05.2005 , 23:03

can u please say me is there any person like this names choychan Tong is a boy name and cheong sinyeng is a girl name.please do the need full thing as eariler as possible.
choychan Tong,cheong Sinyeng
16.05.2005 , 19:37

could you please tell me what my name is in chinese and what it means
17.05.2005 , 02:06

I have a necklace in (i'm asumin in chinese symbols ) could you help me or send me in the right direction? Please and Thank you!!
18.05.2005 , 12:41

where the hell do i findout what my name looks like in chinese
18.05.2005 , 18:46

i just want to know all the characters that go in my first name cos i want to get a tattoo from my back-side up my spine about 4 inches with Shannon writting in Chinese
24.05.2005 , 07:38

how can i know my chinese name?? and the characters..can you send it to me.. i want clemille and genieve names to be translated into chinese characters..im dying to have and to be tatooed on my back..pleaseeeeee thank you..
25.05.2005 , 17:10

ahhhhhhh how do i do this!?!
27.05.2005 , 09:02

i still dont no how to speak chinese
29.05.2005 , 11:04

I am trying to find something interesting for my tatoo. Can you please wtrie me my name on chineese and maybe some symbols of my zodiak sign Gemini?
Thank you a lot!
30.05.2005 , 05:31

Can you send me the characters for Rebecca and Isaac thank you
01.06.2005 , 00:13

sorry got my email wrong
01.06.2005 , 00:14

Hi, Can you please show me how my name looks in spanish? My name is Ramonda Phelps......
03.06.2005 , 10:47

Can someone please help me? I would like to know how to write my name in spanish... Please it would be a great help....
03.06.2005 , 10:49

hi my name is CASSIE I would like to know my name in chinese and spanish it would be so wicked if you could tell me.
07.06.2005 , 18:11

needing the symbols for the following words: LOVE STRENGTH HAPPINESS
nadine schmidt
09.06.2005 , 05:42

10.06.2005 , 19:38

my partner was killled in iraq on tour last year. his name was graham. i have the kanji of his name tattooed on me. but i have no idea of its meaning. please could you e-mail me with the meaning if possible. thankyou.
11.06.2005 , 04:03

im having the owen one tattooed on my back as its my boyfreinds name!
11.06.2005 , 06:17

wot is the translation of loyalty in english
12.06.2005 , 00:04

what my name in chinesee
14.06.2005 , 04:31

Can you tell me what the letters M and D would look like in Chinese. I am looking to have them for a tattoo.
16.06.2005 , 02:35

I feel terrible for saying this, but I'm tempted to send all of these people who are posting requests for names some false information. ;)
16.06.2005 , 04:41

Please tell me what my name means and what the symbol is
18.06.2005 , 13:13

The first few times it was funny, now it's just ridiculous. What is scariest is not the ignorance of the chinese language and writing system displayed by so many of these "wot is my name" questions, but the fact that some people are actually keen to tattoo themselves with symbols they understand absolutely nothing about!

My last hope is that the huge red notice that I have now added will encourage people to go elsewhere if they want to exhibit their foolishness. If any more such comments appear beneath this one, then I think Alai would be perfectly justified in carrying out his/her threat to reply with false information!
19.06.2005 , 12:59

i dont know how to translate
mark anthony monton
19.06.2005 , 21:47

can you please tell me my name in chinesse cus i want a tatto with it on
21.06.2005 , 07:51

Todd, I'm sure these kids are finding your article based on a search for "Chinese Name". I also think it would be hilarious if you sent them something like "In Chinese, Kaytlin means 'Tasty Snail' and it is written like this: ^`~"
22.06.2005 , 05:17

tho i've never had to choose a chinese name for myself, i find the whole process very interesting. there's so much variation in chinese names because of their nature, and so many factors must be taken into account: does the name sound good? is it auspicious? what does it suggest? what do i want my child to be when s/he grows up, or what sort of a name would a doctor/lawyer/official have? anyhow, here's a story from the other side of the fence, so to speak.

the generational part of my given name was already established, as there is an 8-character phrase that we go thru as each generation is born. that is, in 8 generations, the kids belonging to my "clan" (following a patrilineal line; all the kids that will have inherited my surname) should have the same generational name as me. i hope that makes sense.

the other character in my given name was then chosen by my parents from a list that my paternal grandfather came up with. i don't kno how he came up with that list tho, since he was long gone before i was interested in the origins of my chinese name.

i don't kno how many people in china still follow traditions like this, since i'm under the impression that the years of tradition-smashing has left a lot of it lost.

i'm glad you made that list of your former students who had unusual english names. i was going to bring up the fact that many chinese people seem to seek out names that are strange to native english speakers in order to be unique. but now, names like apple are becoming as common as karen or cindy (i kno at least two girls from hk named apple; and gwyneth paltrow thot she was being original!).

regarding the "ellen" and "allen" thing, americans of my dialect (i'm from seattle) pronounce ellen and allen differently, tho that may not be the case with every english speaker (you're australian, rite?). there are a lot of words in english that are pronounced in normal speech the same in some dialects, despite different spellings. in my dialect these are some that are pronounced the same: "bear, bare," "ladder, latter," and like the one you mentioned, "accept, except." of course, with some words, when asked specifically how to pronounce them, people will "over-pronounce" them to reflect the spelling, but it is only in such special cases where they actually pronounce the words like that. for instance, it's hardly ever in regular speech that native english speakers will say the name "anita" with an actual voiceless aspirated alveolar stop. that's what makes english hard to learn how to pronounce at times, and it's the product of sounds changing, but spellings staying the same. imagine what french used to sound like with all those consonants that are spelled, but not pronounced.
Andy [homepage]
22.06.2005 , 13:34

Do u no how 2 spell my name in Chinesse
23.06.2005 , 05:23

Can preety please someone e-mail me with my name in chineese :) it only takes a min.


and thank you
26.06.2005 , 17:07

I would like to know how to write the alphabet in chinese it is for a topic in school.
agnes croxton
29.06.2005 , 05:04

please change my name to chinese and could u tell me wat Nikki is in chinese please
30.06.2005 , 01:04

hiya can you tell me what the simbals are for these names : kara, jade, tommy, lee, carl, mickey, peter, amy, chay, shari, david, jay, henry, bradley, lewis, richard, yari.
kara hamilton
30.06.2005 , 16:30

what is my name look like spelt in chinese
07.07.2005 , 06:50

i am getting a tattoo and i was to no how to spell shmoo in chinese
08.07.2005 , 06:59

i wanna know how to write my last name in chinese charaeture
Robert Melton
08.07.2005 , 11:29

Hello! I am a Norweigan girl who is searching the internet for the chineese sings for "war" and "peace". I am very facinated by the chineese language and culture, and I plan on getting a tatoo involving thees two sings. Could you please help me? Linn.
12.07.2005 , 06:09

I can answer all your questions .
mayar [homepage]
13.07.2005 , 10:34

Linn, 栘棖帊/Poesy of Mu-lan( it means magnolia in Chinese) is a likely answer to your request.
13.07.2005 , 14:00

could some one send the chineese symbol for grandmother
many thanks
13.07.2005 , 18:57

can someone send the symbol for baby
15.07.2005 , 00:56

I want to change my name in chinese language script
please email us
sanjay, malwinder pal singh into chinese script these are two name
sanjay [homepage]
16.07.2005 , 22:03

18.07.2005 , 15:16

As far as i know, most such name translation are based on english pronunciation, like 'Allen' & 'Ellen', which when translated to chinese, both come to 艾伦. It's pretty much just a matter of picking up the proximate chinese character which has the similar pronunciation as the corresponding english name.
18.07.2005 , 18:58

how to spell cassie in chinese.
24.07.2005 , 17:13

how to spell Mariella in chinese.
31.07.2005 , 19:34

i wonder whats mine
02.08.2005 , 11:26

07.08.2005 , 17:00

please send with in 5 minutes.
19.08.2005 , 07:44

hey im getting a tattoo on my lower back and i want it to be my name in chinese it is mallory can u plz tell me wat it would look like thank u !!!!!
28.08.2005 , 09:32

i want to know mi girl friend name in da chineese sings cause i like this civilisation.
30.08.2005 , 04:38

im getting a tattoo and i need my sons name

Clayton Hogan
thank you
01.09.2005 , 06:41

07.09.2005 , 10:16

i just was interested in knowing my name in chinese thank you
14.09.2005 , 02:45

i would like to know the actual chineese symbol for mother thanks
16.09.2005 , 03:25

Im @ school just trying to find some chinese lettering BUT...when i stumbled upon this site well, its full of great amusement ha ha ha to all those stupid people out there who cant get through their thick heads that their name will not get TRANSLATED!!!!!!!!!
16.09.2005 , 12:52

Hey Todd,

Here’s a different question about names. I’ve changed my Chinese name several times, but my English name will never produce a decent-sounding Chinese name. So I just deal with it.

But new parents, particularly overseas Chinese and adoptive parents of Chinese orphans, do have the opportunity to give their children first names that work equally well in Chinese and English (and by extension all European languages). Imagine having a name that works seamlessly in both cultures, so you’d always be “you” and never have to deal with the schizo switch between your Chinese identity and your English identity, as can happen when you’re answering to names as diverse as “Vincent” and “WeiQuan”.

With a good functional “dual” name like Annie 安妮, Jenny 嘉妮 or Lily 丽丽 there is no confusion. Some dual names, like Anna 安娜, Bowen 博文, Dan 丹, Lida 丽达 and Lina 莉娜, are even spelled the same in both English and Pinyin! That’s really cool!

In theory many English names could be captured accurately by the sound structure of Chinese (putonghua) – off the top of my head you could have Ann (an), Andy (andi), Gina (jina), Heidi (haidi), Jan (zhan), Joe (zhou), Lana, Linda (Linda), Mindy (mindi), Randy (randi), Ray (rui), Sherman (shimen), Shirley (shili), Tanya (Tanya), Tyson (taisen) and many others.

Unfortunately, the characters corresponding to the sounds in many of these names just don’t produce a “good” Chinese name (a bad one, yes, as we all learn early on when we hit the dictionary trying to find a better transliteration of our own name). And in some cases the available characters do produce a good name, but of the wrong gender – for example English June versus Chinese Jun 俊 / 军 (definitely male) or English Billy versus Chinese Bili 碧丽 (definitely female).

For some reason, most good dual names I’ve seen are female – maybe because female names in the Indo-European languages often end in “a” or “e”, which equate better to the sounds of Chinese than the strings of hard consonants typical of Indo-European male names.

But for parents who have the luxury of naming their babies, given the creative flexibility inherent in Chinese names and the enormous number of English/European names that could be tapped, there must be hundreds of name combinations that would work beautifully in both Chinese and English (European).

I would love to find an extensive list of “dual names” in which strong and “genuine” sounding Chinese (putonghua) names equate to equally good western names. It must be out there somewhere…

16.09.2005 , 12:57

writeing {trust no one}.
18.09.2005 , 18:49

19.09.2005 , 22:12

just want to know wot my name looks like in chinese before i get it tattoo on my arm
22.09.2005 , 06:13

how do the chinese culture name their kids
03.10.2005 , 04:28

07.10.2005 , 03:59

what does elle look like in chinesse
10.10.2005 , 04:57

25.10.2005 , 15:09

isobel mia layden
28.10.2005 , 09:24

could you give me the Chinese Alphabet
04.11.2005 , 09:56

i realy need to know how to prownounce my name in chinese in at least 8 hours!
16.11.2005 , 04:10

I am actually looking for the meaning of my name in chineese writing. The meaning is forever strong and i thought that maybe u could help me.
18.11.2005 , 01:23

helloo to everyone...
i want to learn how my name is writen in chinese ..pls help..thank you...
23.11.2005 , 17:08

please i would like to know how i write my name DORY in chinese character
01.12.2005 , 21:43

Hi. I would like to know the symbol or wording for THANKFULL or GREATFULL.Thanks
02.12.2005 , 22:57

Hi. I would like to know the symbol or wording for THANKFULL or GREATFULL.Thanks
02.12.2005 , 22:57

it would be great if you could pick letters and find out how to spell things in a different language yourself, in stead of hoping they have the name you want.
03.12.2005 , 22:06

this website is absolutly rubbish
jessica percival
05.12.2005 , 04:14

could you give me the Chinese Alphabet
ashley elizabeth law
08.12.2005 , 11:12

hello, how are u? from where r U
seleny toledano
09.12.2005 , 00:17

how do you say my name in chinese
09.12.2005 , 01:50

what is 'to chris merry christmas and a happy new year love sarah bailey' in chinese please
09.12.2005 , 06:07

Uh what and how to spell my name in chinese.
13.12.2005 , 04:11

please could you tell me the way to spell

sandy and craig in chinese
22.12.2005 , 18:49

hiba in chinese please or japanese
29.12.2005 , 04:32

what are the chinese letters for my name
01.01.2006 , 02:20

Brent and Steven, in chinese please
04.01.2006 , 02:43

Could you please translate "Dewey" for me
05.01.2006 , 15:52

em please could you tell me mi name in chinese and what would the letters be
07.01.2006 , 04:21

what is my chinese name
12.01.2006 , 01:13

what is my chinese name?
14.01.2006 , 03:32

could you tell me how to spell the name Heidi in Chinese
thank you
15.01.2006 , 06:46

i'd like to have my name and "andreea"'s name in chinesse,thank you
15.01.2006 , 23:04

Your English article is so long,my English isn't good enough,yet.But I'm sure,some day,it is better more and more.
I can read it clear.
16.01.2006 , 00:08

I am chinese.maybe everybody can send email to me.I think I can help you guys.
18.01.2006 , 16:42

19.01.2006 , 12:11

19.01.2006 , 12:12

i really want to no my chinese and spanish name
29.01.2006 , 03:08

please could you send me my name in chinese thanks
29.01.2006 , 04:39

I have 3 words that I do not know the correct pronunciation. These words are found in a fiction book I will be teaching next week. Is there anyway that I could get these phonetically written in English?
Thank you so very much!
29.01.2006 , 11:58

i'm going to move in to a nother house, and i wanted it tatooed all over my romm ,so i would like to know what it is and i am going to get a tatoo with it,my name
morgan selsto [homepage]
29.01.2006 , 19:51

how do i find my year i was born in
31.01.2006 , 00:24

How do you write AND in Chineese Writing.
02.02.2006 , 00:40

02.02.2006 , 06:03

What is the symbol for love?
02.02.2006 , 13:12

03.02.2006 , 21:59

i would like to know my first and last name in chinese lettering
Adam Belanger
08.02.2006 , 14:01

just wondering how u would spell my name in chinese lettering
13.02.2006 , 02:43

Hello, i was wondering how to write panda or daxiongmao in chinese, i no this might not get posted but i was needing it for a science project in school thankx!
14.02.2006 , 09:33

Lauren: daxiongmao is: 大熊猫. Or, if your computer can't display chinese characters, try looking at this image: http://www.giantpanda.org/pgimg/baselogo.gif
- the first three characters are daxiongmao.
14.02.2006 , 10:04

I would like to know how to spell Gavin in chinese, please.. Thank you
Donna Cowen
18.02.2006 , 02:11

If you would help me to spell my brother's name in Chinese... He died when I was twelve and he was eleven, and so now I'm going to get a tattoo of his name... His name is Patrick Bo Altier, that would be awesome if you could do that for me!
20.02.2006 , 10:55

i would like to know my name as well as my boyfriend ( michael )thankx
21.02.2006 , 12:02

uh this is just a waste of time ... it is pointless getting your name translated. As what are you are going to use it for.. ?? its not like any of you people can have a decent converstation with asians in their language .. so there mauahahha .. i rule ... look out for me > Emoured youll see my name everywhere u go!!!
22.02.2006 , 13:31

what is my name in chinese symbols, cheers mush
22.02.2006 , 21:29

y'all wanna no sumin y'all r not gonna get emailed bak b'cuz y'all did not read this

NOTE: Please do not post comments asking for help translating your name into chinese (or any other language). Like all such comments above, questions like these will receive no response.
26.02.2006 , 01:43

02.03.2006 , 08:02

What is my chinese name
07.03.2006 , 00:16

thank you
07.03.2006 , 09:50

all i wan2 no is my name in chinese leterz coz i am finkin ov havin tha tatoo
09.03.2006 , 23:49

sumbody plz tel me. luv emma xxx
09.03.2006 , 23:50

i want to now how to write my name in chinese
09.03.2006 , 23:52

how do you say china in chienese language ciz i need 2 no for my home work please could you tell me now straight away coz its to be handed in tomorrow please love jade
10.03.2006 , 03:57

please now i need 2 no
10.03.2006 , 03:59

Jade, the phonetic spelling is "Zhongguo". Also try looking up China in wikipedia:
10.03.2006 , 11:21

11.03.2006 , 02:53

how to tpye my name in chinese and in japanese .
12.03.2006 , 02:13

\"What is my name in Chinese?\"
15.03.2006 , 12:06

good job so i think.
16.03.2006 , 10:21

i think that all chineese people r talented cuz they hav to learn over 1000 different characters. what was the hardest character to learn?
26.03.2006 , 01:03

I'm getting a tattoo and want my daughters name. Can you do that for me. Ailani is her name. Also how do you write the meaning family.
30.03.2006 , 03:17

02.04.2006 , 20:00

how do you wirte my name on kanjia
07.04.2006 , 06:17

pls help me find "messer" name in chinese name thank
07.04.2006 , 10:28

My name is Fuc Yung Chung Wan Li AKA Fucyu Chungwan Li. And I already know my first name translation in Chinese. It means buddha in Chinese. Fuc is buddha.
Fuc Yung Chung Wan Li [homepage]
08.04.2006 , 05:51

First & last name
First: Enrique Last name: Cinco
11.04.2006 , 01:40

you suck
12.04.2006 , 20:08

I am getting a tattoo of my baby boys name and i was wondering how to spell Matias or Matthias in chinese
14.04.2006 , 07:37

how do you spell kelly in chinese
14.04.2006 , 09:14

How to Spell SUMIT in chinese
16.04.2006 , 04:46

can you tell me what my name looks like in chinese symbols please
20.04.2006 , 09:59

cool i m so excited
Megan [homepage]
22.04.2006 , 06:38

Hello my name is Fucyu Chungwan Li. Fuc in Chinese means buddha. Forget the other comment I make. I type my Chinese name wrong. It's really Fucyu Chungwan Li. It sound exactly like fuck you.
Fucyu Chungwan Li
25.04.2006 , 04:11

i would like to know what my LAST name "GARCIA" looks like in CHINESE.
thanks for your help
26.04.2006 , 08:29

I want to know my chineese name because their is a chineese dude in my class
30.04.2006 , 07:21

please tell me what my name looks like in chinese
Charlie Fletcher
01.05.2006 , 04:12

Hi, I want to know how is my name in chinesse. Thanks
04.05.2006 , 19:44

Can you please help me,i was wondering how to write my name in chinese please help me its urgent!
05.05.2006 , 01:55

i need to know how u write my name in chinese for a project.if anyone knows where i can go or how its done then call me at :713-866-6249! love yall bye
mandi :-) [homepage]
05.05.2006 , 08:14

hey can u tell me what my chinese name is because i want to know i have alot of chinese friends and um yeahh thnxx alot buuiii
06.05.2006 , 02:34

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