Several years ago, there was an American classmate of mine used initials of his first and middle names as his name. One day he asked if I could give him an equivalent name in Chinese. Unfortunately, his initials were:
Which phonetically sounded very close the Chinese phrase for “snot”.
This social and cultural brouhaha is not simply one-sided. I have always thought my name “Tian” would be easy enough for Westerners to pronounce. “T” as in “t-shirt” and add on “ian”, which there is already an English name called “Ian”. Yet, I have been referred as “Tee-yang”, “Ty-ang”, or “Ty-an”. One of my own advisors for almost three years has been calling me somewhere between “teen” to “tin”.
Of course, my personal favorite: “Tina”.
videos: YouTube, Revver, or 24.1 MB Quicktime
Consequentially, many Westerners cannot pronounce Chinese names, thus Chinese people are slowly to adapt both Chinese and English names. My good friend Jeremy Goldkorn of Danwei.org (and Danwei.tv) along with Sophie have decided to explore the interesting phenomenon about how the Chinese choose their English names.
By the way, Sophie’s Chinese equivalent "Su Fei" is culturally connected with a brand of feminine hygiene products.