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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why do people ask if I have an "English" name?

OK, I am Chinese (by ethnicity) and yes, I live in Singapore... and the strangest thing I find is that Chinese (especially those from China) would ask if I have an "English" name!

When I was studying in the US, everyone accepted - and respected - that I use my Chinese name... of course not written in Chinese but anglicised so that it is actually pronouncable! Even as I work and make friends with non-Chinese all over the world, none have ever asked if I had an alternative name!

Yet, many Chinese in Singapore (and I'm sure increasingly in China and all around the world) have chosen to take up an "English" name. This is partly because of the spread of the Christian faith, and also partly because an "english" name would be easier for friends and business associates to remember.

I'm not passing a value judgement, and I respect the many reasons for doing so. For me, I am proud of the name I was given and see no reason to shy away from the culture that I was born into.

Then, why go on this 'tirade' about Chinese names vs English names?

Well, this morning I chatted briefly with the new coach - she is from China, and started just 2 weeks ago - and as usual, the rink doesn't tell us anything like that, so I had no idea until I started asking other people who this stranger was! Anyway, when I told her my name, she asked "what about your English name?"

That reminded me also of my first coach after I came back to Singapore after graduation... He is also from China, and after one month of coaching me, suddenly asked "do you have an English name?" Well, on a side note, he also asked "do you speak Chinese" after struggling to speak to me in English for one month!


Coder said...

I have never any English name for decades - it is Chee Seng or nothing. Why must I have an English name when there is nothing wrong with it. Yes, it is already written in English.

Sometimes, I find it funny that in China, Chinese nationals have to translate their Chinese names in English versions.

Keng-hui said...

I totally agree with you on this. My coach also asked my English name when we first met. I told him that I lived in the US for 9 years and everyone calls me by my Chinese name.

In my rink, almost all the kids have English names and many of them use the English names in the rink. Some of them even have their English names pronouced in Chinese way..... Wierd culture in the rink...

Skittl1321 said...

That's very strange- I've never heard of having an "English" name. All of our chinese neighbors just allow us to mangle the pronounciation of their names!

Though I guess the Korean girls I was friends with in high school showed me how they wrote their names in Korean, and that might have been a different name than what we called them (Jinny, Gini, Yuri, and Vy, I don't know if those names are considered to be English versions or not, as they aren't common american names)

I did once have an Indian friend who went by "Bob"- but I think that was more because he was strange than because we couldn't say "Rashuan".

Very interesting post!

-skittl1321 from skatingforums

mrsredboots said...

LOL, Chow. When I was at school, years ago, we had a couple of Chinese girls from Singpore, both of whom used English-style names. One of them, though, had such a very pronounced Chinese accent when she arrived that we all felt that her English name didn't suit her, and promptly christened her "Ming", by which name she was known until she left!

Mind you, this was in the 1960s - that sort of thing wouldn't be considered acceptable now.