Studying Chinese? Read this ahead of you select your name

My initial Chinese name was Ai Mili (艾米丽), a transliteration of “Emily”. I hated it.

I was provided it by a university official in Beijing as I registered for a summer language course. I believed the identify sounded awful and I identified it infantilising to be known solely by my initial name. I desired a name that sounded like a actual Chinese name.

5 many years later, when I was getting ready to go to China once more, I enlisted the aid of a good friend that was a native speaker and my Chinese instructor. This time, I wanted a name that expressed happiness and achievement, and some thing that sounded a tiny distinctive. After several tries, we decided on Li Xiyi (李熙怡).

English-speakers who study French, Spanish or Russian don’t normally get a new title. But just as it’s not unusual for Chinese individuals to consider English names when they review English, many foreigners who review Chinese or dwell in China adopt a Chinese title.

So why is it critical to get it proper, what’s in a identify? Culture, custom and a wealthy background: in brief, fairly a great deal. Chinese names are structured in a different way from names in English. Family names come 1st, and are only one syllable prolonged. Offered names – what we typically call 1st names – are either a single or two characters prolonged. So for instance Mao Zedong’s family title is Mao and his provided name is Zedong. There are a extremely constrained variety of household names – the vast bulk of Chinese people have a single of the 100 most typical surnames. Names that don’t start off with a single of these surnames often will not be readily recognised as a private identify.

Names that sound like real Chinese names present a degree of seriousness and respect in direction of Chinese culture and language. Adopting a Chinese title can also be an opportunity. Chinese mother and father typically give children names that express hopes about the child’s future, and in Chinese philosophy, a excellent name (typically primarily based on factors this kind of as the person’s time and place of birth, and the loved ones title) is considered crucial to a person’s accomplishment in life. These learning the language can use their Chinese title to express their values, aspirations and even sense of humour.

Olle Linge, who writes a site about studying Chinese, is identified in Chinese as Ling Yunlong (凌云龙). Ling is a surname and also can mean “soaring” even though Yunlong indicates “cloud dragon”. The identify was inspired by a Tai Chi Chuan motion that Linge particularly liked, named Cloud Dragon Playing in Water. The characters 凌云 also kind the first half of an idiom that means “to have lofty aspirations”.

Although Linge and I have names that we are content with, it is near impossible for a foreigner to comprehend all the nuances a identify may possibly have. Is it the title of a villain in a classic novel? Is it unlucky or a homonym with an unlucky word? Does it just sound weird? I’ve been informed that xi (熙) sounds Korean, and that it is difficult to publish since the character has also several strokes. Linge has had folks tell him his title sounds like a character in a martial arts novel.

Not all native speakers will even agree on what is or is not a very good name, so it’s a smart move to get feedback from at least two native speakers prior to you make a decision on a title. If you are studying Cantonese or Mandarin and preparing on producing a Chinese identify, here’s a few tips.

Be clear what you are aiming for

Your main aim should be to have a name that sounds like it could be a true Chinese person’s identify, but you also want one thing that you identify with.

Decide on your surname 1st

I would strongly motivate you to choose one particular of the a hundred most widespread Chinese surnames. This guarantees Chinese folks will recognise your name as a person’s identify rather than a point or a spot.

Keep it short

Your total identify should be two or three characters extended. The surname is a single character, and your offered name can be either a single or two characters prolonged.

Ask for support

If you’re only just considering about acquiring a Chinese title, it is likely you are not an specialist Chinese speaker but. Even if you are, there are so many cultural nuances involved with obtaining an suitable Chinese identify that you need to make sure to run any possibilities by at least two native speakers.

Do not title yourself after a celebrity

In China, it is regarded as extraordinarily immodest to title a child after a well-known individual, a taboo that has roots in imperial laws that forbade citizens from having the very same name as the emperor.

Test numerous names

You’re searching for a title that will be with you for the rest of your daily life, so take your time.

Share your identify with your family

If members of your loved ones are also sinophiles, it tends to make sense to share the exact same Chinese surname with them if you also share the same English surname, but it’s not necessary. My sister and I have the identical Chinese surname. Women in mainland China do not usually take their husband’s identify, so married couples really do not require to have the identical surname.

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