Why Your English Name Shouldn't Literally Translate To A Chinese Name

Background #

Literal translations from an English name to a Chinese name can be quickly done using online websites. However there are many factors that go into the construction of a Chinese name and which are therefore not captured when an English name is translated to a Chinese name.

Chinese Language #

The Chinese language has very few syllables, there are about 400 sounds that can be created from the Chinese language. This means choosing a suitable sound is extremely hard. It can be done, but if you are not familiar with the Chinese language, putting random words together simply does not cut it.

Chinese Names #

Chinese people value names which not only sound pleasant but also have deeper meaning, because in Chinese culture it is believed that one’s name determines one’s destiny. Some people I know have requested their Chinese friends to give them a name out of convenience. That is the shortcut to getting a nice sounding Chinese name. However, most names given by friends do not coincide with one’s Birth Profile (Ba Zi). They often come to me when they realize their names are not calibrated to their Ba Zi.

Pitfalls #

Common English names are also often translated to mean a bunch of gibberish nonsense. Just look at the few examples listen below. Do you really want to be a joke amongst your Chinese friends? Didn’t think so.

  • 伊丽莎白 (Yīl​ì​shā​bái) Elizabeth = that beautiful kind of sedge grass white
  • 克利斯朵夫 (Kèl​ì​sī​duǒ​fū) Christopher = gram advantage thus earlobe man
  • 乔纳森 (Qiáonàsēn) Jonathan = tall admit forest
  • 川普 (Chuānpǔ) Trump = plain ordinary

Application #

While the examples above may be an exaggeration, it still illustrates the point that English names that are directly translated to Chinese does not make sense. The Chinese strongly believe that names affect a person’s self-esteem and inauence the expectations of others. You could go with one of the Chinese names directly translated below but it’s boring. For most people, picking a Chinese name is often a second chance of reinventing oneself. Why pick a Chinese name that is exactly the same as your English name?

Conclusion #

A full Chinese name is composed of two parts: the surname and the given name. In a Chinese name, the surname comes first and is followed by the given name. Direct translations often have more than 2 or 3 characters. Literal translations are often joked about within the Chinese community. If a non-Chinese person were to use a literal translation of his/her English name (see examples above), he/she would simply not be taken seriously.

Here are a couple of suggestions on Mnding the right Chinese name for yourself.

  1. Copy a Chinese name from a real Chinese person, although the Chinese name would not be crafted based on your Birth Profile.
  2. Ask a knowledgeable Chinese person to give you a Chinese name.
  3. Visit a reputable Chinese name website. GetChineseNames is a great
    website that simplifies all aspects of choosing a Chinese name and reduces the hassle that goes into selecting one. Names from here are crafted to suit one’s Birth Profile so you can rest assure your Chinese name will be the right one.

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