Intermediate Chinese Video #2: Should Chinese People Take on an English Name?

In this video, Rachel discusses with her friends Adam and Dongxue whether Chinese people moving to the U.S. should take on an English name or not. Check out full transcript and vocabulary list below.

 

VOCABULARY
取qǔ = to take, to get
甚至shènzhì = so much so that, to the point that
留liú = to retain, to stay
职业zhíyè = profession
尊重zūnzhòng = to respect
文章wénzhāng = essay, literary writing
对待duìdà = to treat (sb.), to interact (w/ sb.)
基本上jīběnshang = basically
愣lèng = to stare blankly
如释重负rúshìzhòngfù = to be relieved of a burden, take weight off one’s shoulders
自豪zìháo = proud of one’s achievements
骄傲jiāo’ào = arrogant
压力yālì = pressure
尴尬gāngà = awkward
丢脸diūliǎn = to lose face (embarrass oneself)
不好意思bùhǎoyìsi = to be embarrassed
试探shìtàn = to feel out, to try out
表情biǎoqíng = facial expression
天分tiānfèn = talent
TRANSCRIPT 中国人应不应起个英文名字?
Rachel: 欢迎欢迎,欢迎大家,我今天跟两个很好的朋友们讲话,就是跟Adam和冬雪,
Adam:hello
冬雪:大家好!
Rachel:然后我们今天要讲什么话题
A:今天好像要说中国人该不该取一个英文名字?
R:好!中国人。。。
A:那Rachel你。。你自己怎么想的?
R:没有想到你会先问我!是这样子,我觉得,你知道日本人来美国以后都不会取一个英文名字。
D:对。。
R:为什么呢?因为日本人的名字比较简单,为了美国人比较简单,Nabuko…
D: 发音起来
R:Maki,发音方面的。
A:Keiko
R:那我觉得大部分的中国人应该取个英文名字,因为中文名字对美国人来说太难听得懂。你觉得呢?
A:对,我同意,因为我觉得美国人,就是一般没有学过中文的美国人,就是看拼音就是完全没有办法读出来,比如说。。
R : 那个X字母
A:你名字叫冬雪。
D:冬雪
A:我爷爷奶奶,甚至我爸爸妈妈看冬雪也没有办法发音。
D:真的。。他是真的说的发音
R:所以你也是,你也是跟他的爸爸妈妈用你的。。
D:对,我的英文名字
R:因为冬雪。。对。。所以我要说百分之九十九的人应该有个英文名字,但是如果你的中文名字简单一点,我是说。。对外国人比较简单。。比如说,马友友。
D:对,yoyo
R:所以我们在美国说什么?Yoyo ma。很简单。
D:我有一个朋友,她叫依依,所以。。
R:对!依依!
D:所以她就是对外国人来说。。这个名字发音特别简单,所以就没有必要再取一个不一样的英文名字了,留你原来的名字。
A: 但是我觉得也要看情况,看你的职业。比如说你是个教授。这样子的话你应该用你原来的名字。
R:你说怎么样的教授,中文教授
A:不只是说中文的教授,是任何的教授、老师,这样子你有一个你原来的名字,你中文的名字,就是更加尊重一点
R:尊重一点,但是如果人家背不起来,你怎么办?
A:嗯
R你写什么文章。。如果你是演员。。
A:一个老师,或者是一个教授,他们是每天都会对待。。都会对待他的学生,所以他的学生就会慢慢地。。知道怎么发他的名字
R:嗯
A:如果你是个什么。。做生意的,或者是你见到什么新的客户,他就是。。他可能唯一次见到你,那么如果他不知道发你的名字,这个也不好对吧?
R:那我想问Daisy
D:这就是我的英文名字!
R: 我觉得这是很好听的英文名字!美国人有没有问你你为什么用这个英文名字? D:在我的经验里面,很少有人问。。他们基本上听,第一次我会介绍我的真正的名字,冬雪,然后他们就会愣一下,说“怎么办?这个。。
R:愣一下!呵呵
D:那要怎么做a?然后让我会重复一下我的名字。这样的话,这种情况下,我就会说,”啊,你可以叫我Daisy,Daisy是我的英文名字!” 他们马上就是。。如释重负,很放松,然后以后的对话也会更简单。但是如果像你们这样会中文的美国朋友的话,我就会直接很自豪骄傲地介绍我真正的名字。
A:对,我爸爸妈妈发她的名字特别难,就是给他们带来很大的压力
R:压力,对,然后他们也觉得很尴尬,我要说这个名字说错了,我会丢脸,不好意思。
A:对。。
D:对。。
R:所以我觉得你做得很好
D:试探一下
R:对,你试探一下,你先说你的中文名字,然后看看他们的表情怎么样,如果表情好像”I’m suffering!”,你就说出来你的英文名字。如果很舒服跟你说,”哎呀,我去过中国”怎么样。。”你就可以。
D:但是有的人就是很好奇,或者是对语言很有天分,会。。比如说重复一下我的名字, “冬雪!”,然后我说,“对!,说得很对!“,还有一个人非常坚持地用我的真名字,他说”为什么叫Daisy!我觉得你那个冬雪非常地特别!世界上没有第二个人叫冬雪,你是我认识的唯一一个冬雪!”。所以就完全要看你对面的人是怎么样的。
R:所以我为什么想讲这个话题,因为我有几个朋友,没有很多,就是问我。。
A:中国朋友吗?
R:美国朋友,就是认识我的中国朋友,或是我的台湾朋友以后,就会说,”哎,Rachel,为什么中国人都会起,或者取一个英文名字?是不是看不起他们自己的语言和文化?真的,有人跟我说过这个。
D:这个其实我知道答案,因为我是从大陆来的,不是从台湾来的,是教育的问题,因为我们从我们上第一节英文课开始,我们第一个问题就是。。
A:嗯,对
R:教育方面也是很有逻辑的,因为对我们来说,我们背不出来中文名字,没有学过中文的美国人背不起来,背不出来,所以我觉得有逻辑,比如说美国人问我说,”是不是中国人看不起自己的语言、文化,我就说,不是这样子,我去台湾或中国,我也有一个中文名字,因为Rachel非常难发。
D:发音。。
A:嗯,对
D:所以就是感觉中国人有英文名字是非常地为他人着想。
R:所以我们三个人是不是都同意。
A:我自己觉得就是,还是要看情况,大部分的时候,你应该用英文名字。
R:如果你的中文名字不是对外国人非常容易的。。应该取个英文名字。
D:嗯,对。
A:对。
R:。。很了不起,三个人都同意了。
A:但是,还有一个很重要的问题,就是你怎么取个英文名字,对不对?
R:对。
R:所以。。。
A:这是我们下一个话题,今天的时间就到这了,下次再播听。
R:等一下见,再见。

NEW Chinese Videos!

Nihao Chit-Chat Followers!

I am back and with a vengeance! I am beginning to create video lessons for learners, starting with this intermediate conversation lesson. Here I am chatting with a friend (all in Mandarin) about the Mandarin Meetup group I run in San Francisco.

 

 

YOUTUBE LESSON: What are Mandarin Meetups? (intermediate level)

rachel-and-isaac

VOCABULARY LIST AND FULL TRANSCRIPT included in each lesson (always pinned to the top of the comments in Youtube). Check it out and let me know what you think. Also taking theme suggestions. Go on send some my way!

TOTAL BEGINNER LESSONS COMING SOON!

 

 

 

My Favorite Polyglot Bloggers to Follow

#1 Fluent in 3 Months 

I am not a fan of this blog’s title (more on that in another post), but am a fan of the blog itself. It’s written by a plucky Irish fellowBlog1 who travels the world every three months taking on a new language or language project. It’s the kind of exhausting endeavor I would never take on myself, but makes for a super entertaining read, all while providing morsels of language-learning tips and advice.

Good place to start: Language Hacks 

 

 

#2 The Linguist  http://blog.thelinguist.com/

The polyglot behind this blog, Steve Kaufman, is the real deal. No inflated claims or snake oil here; he offers up rock solid blog steveadvice on how to learn a language to mastery, something he has done with 9+ languages. He also created a language learning site called Lingq that has loads of authentic content with audio. You can also find lots of advice from him on YouTube.

Good place to start:  Home page 

 

#3 Speaking Fluently

Like Kaufman, this blogger (Richard Simcott) is a language tour-de-force. He is not quite as prolific as Kaufman in the blogging Blog polyglotdepartment, but still offers up great advice as he tackles yet another language. He sets realistic goals and lets the readers in on the nitty-gritty of how he is learning. He hasn’t written much lately on his website but continues to post on Speaking Fluently’s Facebook page.

Good place to start:  Language Learning Tips 

 

#4 I Will Teach You a Language  

This blog is about how to take control of your own language 28cab4631ecdcb1c5a17771894525a84_olly_main_photolearning and get results. Olly Richards is a polyglot, currently living in Cairo and learning Egyptian Arabic. The best thing about this site is its specificity. He breaks down the learning process, learning tools, online resources and other approaches to study in great detail so learners can benefit from what he has tried and seen that works.

Good place to start: Home Page

 

#5 Language Tsar

Conor Clyne is a polyglot who lives and works all around theblog tsar world picking up new languages as he goes. He is useful to follow since he is always testing out and reviewing online learning resources and handing out advice on what has worked for him. He frequently posts videos of himself interviewing popular online polyglots to get their advice and tips.

Good place to start: Learning Tips from Polyglots  

 

#6 Lingoholic 

This site is chock-full of great language learning resources and blog lingoholicadvice. Everything from “How to Turn your Facebook Feed into a Language Learning Machine” to “The Top Five Free Tools to Help You Learn a Foreign Language”. Each post is well researched with an eye on providing the reader with solid, practical resources.

Good place to start: Home Page 

 

#7 Polyglot Dream 

Luca seems to be everywhere in the polyglot blogosphere. He is widely admired for his Blog lucalanguage skills (9+ languages) and offers up lots of practical advice. This is a good site to go to for inspiration and to find out how someone takes so many languages to mastery.

Good place to start: Archives 

 

 

 #8 Learnlangs 

All right, I will admit it: I actually don’t follow this blogger. But I will.  It took some real digging around to find just one female polyglot who blogs. And this is the only one on my list so far. I gave her site a gander and it blog8looks like she has lot of interesting resources to share on general language learning and on the specific languages she studies. She also has an online learning Mandarin program in the works called, LearnYu, that looks great.

Good place to start: Online resources

So why are there so few female polyglots in the blogosphere? More on that in my next post…

Paralysis by Analysis

Well it has been a long, long time Chit-Chat followers (years in fact). And I am moving toward a more general blog on language learning. I hope you can join me there. I will also post Chinese-specific posts on Chit-Chat from time to time as well, so keep an eye out. You can find my new blog here:

www.speakalanguagenow.com

And here is my second post – also useful for Mandarin Chinese learners:

young man pulling funny face on white background

Paralysis by Analysis

Something dawned on me one day while saying goodbye back-to-back with one our particularly fussy students (who was having trouble learning) and then saying goodbye to a completely unfussy student (who was making great strides in her learning). I turned to our school director and said: “Have you ever noticed how the people who fuss around the least with their learning are the ones who are the most successful at actually learning?” It got me thinking about the habits involved that lead to success with language learning and those that don’t. It’s not what you would expect. Doesn’t it seem like the people who are detail oriented, careful and meticulous would be the good learners? They are the ones, after all, crossing all their t’s and dotting all their i’s. So what’s the deal?

It could be that the successful learners just do it; they don’t fuss around worrying about if their teacher is the best, if their books have the latest pedagogical methods, or what exactly is going to happen next in their program. They just show up for class, and do some studying outside of class. It’s that simple. They are not more intelligent, they are not better educated, nor do they naturally have some kind of gift for learning languages. They come in every shape and size, age, ethnicity and share just one thing in common: They don’t fuss around. So what is the rub with those prone to such a thing?

“Paralysis by analysis” I think is the answer. Maybe some people are so caught up in the “how” of learning that they never roll up their sleeves and get down to the business of actually learning.  Language learning can be scary, out-of-control business. Learning requires throwing oneself in and abandoning one’s ego, feeling like a stumbling toddler who lacks any of the cherub cuteness of an actual toddler. Learning foreign languages requires ceding control and trusting that the bumpy waters of learning eventually lead somewhere. It requires getting going and not overthinking the process. It doesn’t feel like it at some points, but you will get there, if you keep sailing ahead.

Take one of our students named Barbara.  She is a retired woman in San Francisco who had never learned a foreign language in her life (other than a bit of high school French decades ago). She came to our school to learn Mandarin, just for the heck of it. She takes lessons just once a week, she studies consistently outside of class and tries to never, ever miss a class. So, guess what…  three years later, she actually speaks Mandarin, and speaks quite well. She is a success story, from an unlikely demographic and someone with no pressing need to learn.

Now take Juliet, an educated young woman with a high powered job. She is married to a Russian man and has a strong desire and need to learn the language to communicate with his family. She did more than due diligence in vetting us as a school, asking to try two different teachers for her private lessons so she could pick the better of the two, ordering extra materials to be well geared up. But then there came the actual learning part. She cancelled many lessons since she hadn’t done her homework and she felt she wouldn’t “get the most” out of the lesson. She obsessed that the 3rd edition of the university textbook we were using wasn’t good enough because there was a 4th edition out there. She asked to switch teachers. There were many calls to the school to get advice and talk about her progress. But the thing is she never got down to the business of actually learning. Six months later she gave up convinced the conditions were not right for her to learn properly. She blamed the book; she blamed the teacher; she even blamed the husband.

Here is the thing: You can learn from any book, any teacher, any online program, anywhere and anytime. Yes, it’s great if any one or all of those are the “best” out there. But it won’t matter if you get in the way of yourself.

So you want to learn a language? Just do it. Pick a place (virtual is fine), choose a start date (sooner rather than later), attend your sessions religiously, and carve out a determined amount of time each week for studies. Don’t shoot for the stars (unless you have the money and time to become a full-time student in the country). Make a SMART plan: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound.

What would this look like for language learning? Here is an example:

Specific: I want to learn Spanish

Measurable: I want to become conversational at an upper beginner level

Achievable: 6 months is enough time to reach that goal in a non-immersion environment

Relevant: I choose Spanish because I live in a Spanish speaking neighborhood in San Francisco

Time Bound: I am going to join an online language challenge to make sure I reach my goals in time

How about you? Have you found success with learning? If so, how did you do it? Are you instead stuck and frustrated? What do you think is getting in your way? Post your complaints or success stories. Both are useful.

Big Noses Can’t Really Learn Chinese

" Your Average Big Noser"

Do you ever get the feeling that Chinese people think you can’t really learn to speak their language? There is a Chinese restaurant I have frequented in San Francisco for almost two years now. Each time I go in to get take out, I chat with the staff and laoban (boss) while waiting. They are all native Cantonese speakers, sometimes struggling to find the right word in Mandarin.  Many times I’ve guessed what they were trying to say and helped them with the Mandarin word or phrase. Nevertheless, something humorous and very telling happened last time I went in.

One woman with whom I am very friendly said in Mandarin “Can I ask you something?” I said “sure”. And she replied “I hope you won’t be bothered by what I am going to ask, but, all this time we’ve been speaking with you, have you really understood us or are you just pretending.” Wait a second, I was thinking, I am the one who corrects your Mandarin!  She has heard me having complex conversations with the laoban, who has more fluent Mandarin. Why would she ever imagine I could pull off such a complex hoax, including guessing entire conversations and making up answers in Mandarin, all while having no idea what I am saying? Yet, I think I know why. I think she falls into the category of Chinese people who simply don’t believe it is possible to speak or understand Chinese if you are a “Big Noser” (Chinese slang for the ethnically non-Chinese).

I can never guess who will be a person who eases into a conversation, briefly complimenting my level in Mandarin, but immediately accepting the concept of a Big Noser actually conversing in Mandarin. It is impossible to predict. I have interviewed Mandarin teachers, people whose profession it is to look at big noses and try to get them to learn Mandarin, who cannot accept really speaking in Mandarin with someone sporting a schnoz larger than their own. I had one teacher unable to concentrate, laughing and saying “I just can’t believe it!” while interviewing her in Mandarin for a teaching position. At one point she covered her eyes and said “If I just do this, I will then think you are Chinese and not find it so funny”.  Then there have been others with little to no exposure to Westerners, let alone ones who speak Mandarin, easing right into it and going with the flow.

There have been some posts, including one of my own, about people not speaking Chinese to Westerners. The assumption has been that they prefer to practice their English. This may be true, but I also think some of these people actually don’t believe it can be done. No matter if you have been conversing with the person on a weekly basis for two years. It must be a ruse, smoke and mirrors, a carnival trick. How I wish I could do that, and skip the nearly two decades of study.

Directional Commands: The Answers!

And now for the answers:

“Come in”  进来   jìn lái

“Go out” 出去  chū qù

“Come up” 上来  shàng lái

“Come down” 下来  xià lái

“Go up” 上去  shàng qù

“Go down” 下去  xià qù

“Pick up” 拿起来   náqǐlái

“Put down” 放下去  fàng xià qù

“Put on” (clothes) 穿上  chuān shàng

“Take off” (clothes) 脱下  tuō xià

“Put in” 放进去  fàng jìn qù

“Take out” 拿 来  ná chū lái

Get on (vehicle) 上车  shàng chē

Get off (vehicle) 下车  xià chē

Put on (pin, barrett, hat, decoration to wear) 戴上  dài shàng

Take off (pin, barrett, hat, decoration to wear) 脱下 tuō xià

“Come over here” 过来  guò lái

“Go over there” 过去  guò qù

“Get up” 起来  qǐ lái

“Stand up” 站起来  zhàn qǐ lái

“Sit down” 坐下  zuò xià

“come back” 回来  huí lái

“go back” 回去  huí qù

“bring with” (3 ways to say: bring it with you; bring it as you go somewhere; take out) 带来 /带去/带走  dài lái / dài qù / dài zǒu

“bring back to” (like a book you bring back to the library) 带回去  dài huí qù

“bring back with” (like going to the library and bringing the book home with you) 带回来 dài huí lái

(pinyin is getting messed up in WordPress that should be: stand up = zhan4 qi3 lai2 and the second to last one is dai4 zou3)

And now for the answers:

“Come in”  进来   jìn lái

“Go out” 出去  chū qù

“Come up” 上来  shàng lái

“Come down” 下来  xià lái

“Go up” 上去  shàng qù

“Go down” 下去  xià qù

“Pick up” 拿起来   náqǐ lái

“Put down” 放下去  fàng xià qù

“Put on” (clothes) 穿上  chuān shàng

“Take off” (clothes) 脱下  tuō xià

“Put in” 放进去  fàng jìn qù

“Take out” 拿 来  ná chū lái

Get on (vehicle) 上车  shàng chē

Get off (vehicle) 下车  xià chē

Put on (pin, barrett, hat, decoration to wear) 戴上  dài shàng

Take off (pin, barrett, hat, decoration to wear) 脱下 tuō xià

“Come over here” 过来  guò lái

“Go over there” 过去  guò qù

“Get up” 起来  qǐ lái

“Stand up” 站起来  zhàn qǐ lái

“Sit down” 坐下  zuò xià

“come back” 回来  huí lái

“go back” 回去  huí qù

“bring with” (3 ways to say: bring it with you; bring it as you go somewhere; take out) 带来 /带去/带走  dài lái / dài qù / dài zǒu

“bring back to” (like a book you bring back to the library) 带回去  dài huí qù

“bring back with” (like going to the library and bringing the book home with you) 带回来 dài huí lái

Directional Commands: First the Quiz

"Mandarin directionals muddle one's mind"

At some point in my Mandarin studies I realized I was completely confused about directional commands (e.g. “come here”, “go there”, “come in”, “go out”, etc.). Finally I sat a teacher down to get it all straight.  Now,  first let’s see if you’ve already got it straight. Here are some directional commands in English. Let’s see if you know the Mandarin equivalent (answers in follow up post in a few days).  Please post in English and ones you think I missed:

“Come in”

“Go out”

“Come up”

“Come down”

“Go up”

“Go down”

“Pick up”

“Put down”

“Put on” (clothes)

“Take off” (clothes)

“Put in”

“Take out”

Get on (vehicle)

Get off (vehicle)

Put off (pin, barrett, hat, decoration to wear)

Take off (pin, barrett, hat, decoration to wear)

“Come over here”

“Go over there”

“Get up”

“Stand up”

“Sit down”

“come back”

“go back”

“bring with” (2 ways to say, i.e something you take with you, and another thing you take away with you – as you go off somewhere)

“bring back to” (like a book you bring back to the library)

“bring back with” (like going to the library and bringing the book home with you)

Tone Robots (and How Not to Become One)

"Hello - we - are - tone - robots. Take - us - to - your - leader."

Sometimes you can be so right, you are actually wrong. You’re determined not to speak sloppy Mandarin. You’ve memorized the tone for every word (or character combination) you know. In every word you utter, the tone rings crystal clear and you know it. There is only one problem: You sound like a freaky robot.

You win some and you lose some with each style of learning Mandarin. Some of my students are “loosey goosey” with their tones, hitting on the right ones seemingly only by accident, yet somehow capturing some of the cadence of the language. Then there are some diligent students, with well-memorized tones, who may come off sounding, well, like robots. I’ve seen Mandarin teachers in my school, or native speakers in my San Francisco Mandarin group, giggle uncontrollably when hearing this kind of Mandarin; The kind where each morpheme is separated, thrown out into the air, and violently axed with a 100% accurate tone. Correct? Yes. Funny sounding? Affirmative.

The good news is if you are already speaking this type of Mandarin, you are probably a very good student. Now you’ve just got to smoke some reefer and loosen up. Or, if you’re not into that kind of thing, try this approach: Take some of your study time to focus on the cadence and melody of Mandarin. How does a whole sentence sound put together? When are tones emphasized or de-emphasized? What do native speakers really sound like? You may be surprised to hear tones almost lost in the cadence of speech, while others are clearly executed for emphasis. English is not that different. A learner of English could separately say each word, emphasizing what clear diction he has in the sentence “I – am – going – to – go – to – the – store”. Yet, he would also lose the feel of how an American might more naturally say “I’m gonna go t’the store.”

The best way to avoid becoming a tone robot is to listen to as much Mandarin as you can, and simply try to mimic what you hear. Pretend you are an actor who has to repeat the lines exactly as you hear them. This is the time to shut off your tone-focused brain, and concentrate simply on melody and cadence. If you don’t live in a country that speaks Mandarin, the best way to increase your exposure to the language are podcasts (try Chinesepod.com or do a Google search for others). Download lessons on to an MP3 player and carve out some time in your studies just for listening and absorbing the flow of the language.  Signing – off – now.  I  – do – hope – this – computes.

“Hello, My Name is Have-No-Honor”

shame

Choosing a good Chinese name is a delicate matter and should be handled by the experts only, that is to say only well-educated native speakers. First, allow me to start with a cautionary tale: The story of how I ended up with the name “Have-No-Honor” in Chinese (or something that sounded exactly like that) and how I ran around Taiwan for 6 months introducing myself as a person “without a good reputation”.

I started learning Chinese at the age of 14 in my high school. The teacher asked us if we would like a Chinese name and I said I would like one with the character jade in it. He then gave me the name “míngyù” (明玉) and I was known as “brilliant jade” in Chinese class until my graduation four years later.

Off to college, and the more stuffy atmosphere of Mandarin classes at Georgetown University. The first day of class I was asked my last name in English, which is Meyer.  The teacher then chose the last name “méi” (梅), or Plum Blossom, and I was known as “Classmate  Mei” (梅同学) for the next four years in Chinese class. Then I was off to Taiwan after graduation. I thought, all I had to do was now put my first name with my last name and, voilá, I would have a full Chinese name.

Not so fast! The problem with just throwing together characters is that there are a lot of homophones in Mandarin and the chances of things going seriously wrong abound. In this case my placing of Méi Míngyù together created something that sounded exactly like “without a good reputation” (没名誉), not exactly the image I was trying to give off as a expat sorting her way through socializing in Mandarin.

Finally, one evening lying in my bunk in my dorm room, one of my 3 roommates approached me; she had prepared a little mini-speech in English (clear by the piece of paper she pulled out of her pocket and began to read from). “You name very shameful. It mean… have no honor!  You need new name. Your new name is “Méi Jiérú”, it much better.” And that’s how I got the name I have today, which I am told consistently is a good name. So, do you need a Chinese name and if so how do you get a good one?

You will need a Chinese name if you ever intend to write your name in characters. If you are learning only pinyin and not the writing system, you could get away with saying your name in English, particularly if it is a common one such as David or Nancy. The only problem is that if you really want to speak Chinese with your counterparts, saying your name in English will encourage the conversation to turn to speaking English. Also, if your name is not that common or you are speaking with someone who doesn’t know English, it will be hard for the listener to say or remember your name. It’s the same reason most Chinese expats in the U.S. take on an English name. So here are some tips on choosing a name:

•    If you have a common given name there is usually a set of characters typically associated with your name. You can look this up then have a native speaker help you choose a last name that is close to your surname, or one that goes well with those characters.
•    If you do not have a common name, you should choose a name with a meaning that you like. For example, a person I know with the name “Forever Beautiful” is not a name I would want, just too much pressure. Girls usually are given names that mean ”beautiful”, “white”, “pure”, “clean”, etc. and boys are more likely to be given names with characters such as “brave”, “intelligent”, and “strong”. But names run the full gamut and you can have a native speaker help you choose something meaningful and poetic to you. There are plenty of characters that form beautiful names such as “cloud”, “jasmine”, “poetry”, “dragon”, and many more.
•    ONLY have an educated native speaker help you choose a name. Someone serious about the assignment will not choose one on the spot, but will take some time and talk to other Chinese people to get their feedback. Likewise, before you take on your new name, ask a few native speakers what they think of the name chosen for you.
•    Learn what each character in your name is associated with, this is how you will be expected to tell people your name each and every time you meet someone new.  I, for example, have to say each time when asked which characters are in my name that they are “mei, as in plum blossom mei”, “jie as in clean jie” and “ru as in if ru”. People will often also imaginary write the characters on their own hand for the viewer to see which character they mean.
•    If you just want to play around with choosing a Chinese name, check out this site: http://www.mandarintools.com/chinesename.html – but remember to run the results by a native speaker before adopting the name.
•    Here is a list of English names transliterated into Chinese: http://chineseculture.about.com/library/name/blname.htm – these are not real Chinese names, but instead just the sound of your English name transliterated into Chinese. You know the guys who sit on the sidewalk and tell tourists they will write their English name in Chinese? That’s what they are doing. Just writing out characters to mimic the sound of your English name. So, here a name like “Barbara” becomes “Ba-ba-la”. A real Chinese name would only be one or two characters for the given name and only one for the surname.

Any good stories on how you got your name in Chinese?

Chinese New Year: Children’s Song

It is Chinese New Year tonight. We are a bit glum here in the USA, so here is a cheerful, traditional Chinese song sung by Chinese children for many centuries. Here is my own translation (see character version below and adorable video):

In the small alleys of every street
On the tip of everyone’s tongue
First thing that comes forth
Always will be “good wishes, good wishes”

Good wishes! Good wishes!
Good wishes! Good wishes!

Winter is finishing up
Welcome news indeed
A warming spring breeze
Comes to wake up the earth

Good wishes! Good wishes!
Good wishes! Good wishes!

The stark white snow dissolves
The plum blossoms bloom
The long dark nights diminish
The rooster begins to crow

Good wishes! Good wishes!
Good wishes! Good wishes!

What difficulties we have had
All that we have endured
How the children have wished
For these signs of spring

Chinese transcript:

每条大街小巷,
每个人的嘴里
见面第一句话,
就是恭喜恭喜。

恭喜恭喜恭喜你呀
恭喜恭喜恭喜你

冬天已到尽头,
真是好的消息;
温暖的春风,
吹醒了大地。

恭喜恭喜恭喜你呀
恭喜恭喜恭喜你

皓皓冰雪溶解,
眼看梅花吐蕊
漫漫长夜过去,
听到一声鸡啼

恭喜恭喜恭喜你呀
恭喜恭喜恭喜你

經過多少困難
經歷多少磨練
多少心兒盼望
春天的消息

恭喜恭喜恭喜你呀
恭喜恭喜恭喜你