Thursday, July 06, 2006

What's in a name 2

Some people who, like me, are studying the Chinese language choose to take a Chinese name to use among other Chinese speakers. I did that in China, and some people that I know there only know me by that name.

After some time I have realized it is a pain in the butt to have people calling me two completely different names. I used to use the Chinese name 佳宝 [jiābǎo] among Chinese speaking folks. When they met people that only knew me by my given name 'Johan', there would often be a degree of confusion. The solution? I have upon coming back to Sweden started to use a characters that resembles the Swedish pronunciation of 'Johan'. Just to make life easier.

I had a discussion with Wen about what would be a suitable characters of my name, and her buddy Wang Xinjun came up with 又一碗 [yòuyīwǎn], literally 'Again One Bowl'!. To prevent myself from being the permanent laughing stock in Chinese circles and also not ruining my chances to get invited for a meal, I opted for the more normal sounding 佑湾 [yòuwān].

That really works like a charm. The pronunciation of that is in fact very close to the Swedish pronunciation! It really improves communication when people know you by the same name, and doesn't have to learn two names. I would recommend other Westerners to do the same when possible. I'm not sure i would recommend the same to Chinese with names that are hard to pronounce and remember for Westerners though. Let's take Liu Hongchao, wouldn't you agree that for most people around here would find it easier to remember 'Allan'? It can still be a greater advantage that people are able to remember a name at all, and a smaller problem that other Chinese will not have an idea who you are talking about when referring to him by a taken foreign name. People in Hong Kong and Singapore seem to have recognized this a long time ago and many have officially two names, even printed on their passports and ID-cards.

Update to a post long time ago concerning my taken Chinese name.

佑 [yòu] assist, protect, bless, 湾 [wān] harbor
I'm the protector of harbors ;-) ... or Taiwan? (台湾)

1 comment:

Mathew said...

hej you dont know me as i am just a passer by. but i got my swede friend (Johan as well) a chinese name called 祐漢 (even i know the "H" is not pronunced in the name Johan)... but it may make more sense. see if you think it fits.... been to jönköping, stockholm, göteborg and arboga in june. sweden is beautiful, you're lucky!

hej då!