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Chinese/Chinese Name(s)


Hi Colin,

I have recently started studying Chinese and have been trying to come up with a Chinese name for myself. I have been told that a couple of my ideas "don't make sense" in Chinese. Can I ask whether 铃志江 "makes sense" as a name? I'm trying to find something which means something to me, is easy to remember, and isn't a phonetic version of my English name.

Thanks for your help.

Hi Freyr,

First thanks for your question, and welcome to learn Chinese, I'm sure you will achieve much in the process of learning this language.

    For the question you asked me, actually it cannot say whether a name 'make sense' absolutely --I mean no matter in which language-- the language user generally doesn't consider the name making sense or not. However, there is difference between reasonable/explainable name and so-called 'awkward' name. In China, people judge it mainly by the meaning of the characters.

    Generally, the family name of a native Chinese must be put before his/her given name, and the family name often use 1 character (in some rare situation one may have a family name of 2 characters, but never 3 or more). Hence, the name you referred in your post '铃志江' should be divided into '铃'(family name) and '志江'(given name).
    '志江' is very good as a given name, for '志' means aspiration, '江' means large river. Both of them can be seen in Chinese given names quite often, and so does their combination '志江'. While '铃' is not a Chinese surname, so it sounds very strange when you use '铃' as your first character of the name (the Chinese speaker could regard '铃' as a family name by their language-using habit).

My suggestion for you are as follows,
1. Since you are not a Chinese native, you don't need to make a surname for yourself, thus you can use '志江' rather than '铃志江' as your Chinese name;
2. You could change '铃' to '林'. Because '铃' and '林' sound very similar (if you know pinyin, 铃 is [líng] and 林 is [lín]), and in China, '林' is a relatively large surname, a lot of people's surname is it.

    As for you trying to find a name which means something to you, I don't know what exactly the 'something' is, but again, it is obvious that Chinese native speaker always explain the meaning of a name by the meaning of the characters used in one's GIVEN name. So you can use the character(s) whose meaning are what you want as your given name. But note that your given name shouldn't be more than 2 characters.  

    For any other questions, please e-mail or ask in AE to me.

    It's my sixth answer on AE, and best wishes for your Chinese studying!



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Colin Chi


Chinese language, Chinese culture, Teaching Chinese as a foreign/second language


I'm now a junior undergraduate majored in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, BLCU (Beijing Language and Culture University), and have been trained specifically on certain fields, including General Linguistics, SLA (Second Language Acquisition) techniques, and Ancient/Modern Chinese, etc. I have experience on teaching Chinese to long/short term students, and understand the major problems, questions, and its solutions.

2009-13 BA in process Beijing Language and Culture University, majored in TCFL

Awards and Honors
Chief executor of research project named The Study of Central Constituent Elimination on the Adverbial Central Structure Based on Corpus

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