Chinese students urged to be proud of “actual names”

Published 18/10/2019

Chinese students in Edinburgh have been persuaded to use their birth names rather than adopted English ones on a Facebook ‘confessions’ page.

In a post, published on October 7 on on EdiFess – an anonymous confession page for students in Edinburgh – Chinese students were told to “be more proud of your actual names”.

Adopting an English name is a common practice for Chinese students learning English or travelling and working abroad. Actor Li Lianjie and Alibaba founder Ma Yun, for example, are both better known outside of China as Jet Li and Jack Ma.

“It’s very popular to pick an English name when you’re at college so that’s when I followed the trend,” one former student told The PIE News.

“It’s very important to have a name that the other culture can understand”

“But later I found my Chinese name was quite easy for foreigners to pronounce. A lot of people said they liked my name. But by that time I had been using my name for several years and I kind of feel connected with both names now.”

Other students and former students The PIE reached out to noted that language classes in China were sometimes pushy in forcing students to pick an English name.

Others said they saw it as more of a nickname and pointed out that having nicknames or descriptors attached to one’s name is common in China.

The phenomena also works in reverse, with some foreign students in China adopting Chinese names.

“From my experience, it’s very important to have a name that the other culture can understand,” Richard Coward of China Admissions explained.

“In China, I need a Chinese name. In Spain, I introduce myself as Riccardo. It’s more relatable and they feel as if you are one of them.”

China-based language school Mandarin House reported its long-term students also adopt Chinese names.

“Adopting a Chinese name represents an excellent opportunity to express their personal values and aspirations to new people they meet,” president of Mandarin House Jasmine Bian said.

“They also appreciate the fact that having a Chinese name makes it easier for others to remember them,[and] showcases to others that they are making an effort to integrate into the Chinese culture.

“We encourage our students to either ask their teacher or a native Chinese speaker for help. Since Chinese names are heavy in meaning, students often start by deciding which personality traits or values are most important to them and then go from there.”

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