Saturday, March 16, 2013

What's the Deal with Chinese Students' Westernized Names?

Do Chinese universities actively train Chinese students to use Westernized names when they are being prepared to study abroad?  This is a remarkably consistent practice, one I've only ever seen among Chinese (+HK, Taiwanese) graduate students.  And I know it's not my place to say it, but it is a completely retrograde practice that diminishes the humanity of these students, while reflecting a subtle condescension towards non-Chinese.  The presumption is that we're too dumb to learn to pronounce a Chinese name.  And the effect is that Chinese culture is given one less chance to be experienced and learned.

If you're a politically aware Chinese person living abroad, please cut yourself and your colleagues a break by telling them your real name.  The alternative is (politics aside) just annoying.

1 comment:

MUNIB said...

Two thoughts:

1. I think some students embrace the chance to start anew and in part do that by making up a new name for themselves. I've known some who took the chance to be creative with names like 'Ripple,' and several 'Michael's who specifically chose that name because of their love for Michael Jordan.

2. As someone with a chronically mispronounced name - Munib - I can say from experience that it's often much more convenient to give people another much simpler one. For restaurant/coffee-shop orders, wait-lists, and a lot of other one-off situations, I will usually give the name "Andy" because it's just easier and less time-consuming. From my own personal experience, having to constantly spell and re-pronounce your name, and answer the frequent follow up questions about your ancestors' migratory journeys can get pretty annoying pretty fast. As I type this, I'm realizing that I've done this less and less as I've gotten older.