Any comment is appreciated 🙏
having two different names is perfectly normal
" Hello, I am from Taiwan. My name is Jia-Yun." Only after a split second of awkward silence when I add sheepishly, " but Jasmine will do."
"Why do you have two names?", Leyla asked, somewhat confused.
Whenever traveling overseas, I introduce myself as Jasmine, while my Chinese name is buried well within the page of my passport. Since almost everyone in Taiwan has an additional English name, being called both Jia-Yun and Jasmine seems perfectly normal.
Ever since middle school, I could sense the teachers' anxieties of reaching my name on the roll call, nervous about pronouncing my name incorrectly. Every other student's name rolled swiftly off the tip of my teachers' tongues. As for mine? There had always been this pause before my name was called out. A short yet meaningful pause that I'd become a little too familiar with. When they do manage to call it out, Ho, Jia-Yun suddenly turns into a "Jia-Young" - or even better, just a "Jia" because they assumed the space afterward indicated that "Jia" was my middle name. As a child, I was afraid to prove them wrong because questioning teachers meant questioning an authority figure, and that was the last thing I wanted to do.
Chinese names have inherent meanings. Families normally look through thousands of characters in the dictionary to think of a unique name with wishes for the newborn. The name signifies something greater than a mere combination of characters on a page. "Jia-Yun" is such a beautiful name with indications of being wonderful and talented, why would my parents give me another name in English? If societies are becoming more culturally aware, why is having an English name still such a common act among the Chinese?
Usually, I explain to my foreign friends that having English names is an act of consideration to foreigners, for when names are difficult to pronounce or to remember. Given a more careful thought, the explanation seemed slightly racist, or even untrue. Never had I heard an English speaker say, "I can't remember the capital of China because it's in Chinese." Similarly, I'd never heard a Chinese say, "I'm from a city called Kaohsiung, but since foreigners can't pronounce it, we've chosen the English name 'Karol' instead."
Truth be told, a part of me was utterly insecure about the name Jia-Yun when encountering foreigners. I didn't want to correct people repeatedly on how they pronounce my name, and I believe that it helps foreigners to remember me. I even prefer to be called Jasmine, for fear of being an outcast.
" They are both given names from my parents. While Jia-Yun is my original name, Jasmine is my preferred name." I told Leyla.
I then took a piece of paper and wrote my name down in Chinese. At the sight of my calligraphy, the "ooh" and "wow"s from unmistakably flipped on my confidence switch. I turned to see three pairs of eyes staring at the piece of paper with concentration. When I pronounced my name again, they repeated. Even though the familiar "Jia-Young" still popped out, I nodded in encouragement.
Having an additional English name may be an act of consideration. However, having the patience and confidence to introduce myself as Ho, Jia-Yun is the act of sincerity and the recognition to my culture. Even though I still prefer the name Jasmine, never will I belittle my root, my name, and who I really am.
"Hello everyone. My name is Ho, Jia-Yun." The name represents me, not only as a unique individual but also as a cultural group.