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An idea I once questioned - using both Chinese and English names


jiayun223 /  
Jul 30, 2018   #1
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.

Holt [Contributor] - / 6,871 1714  
Aug 1, 2018   #2
Hey Jasmine, I really like the concept of this essay. The story is nice and offers an insight into Chinese culture. However, it doesn't really explain to me why you believe that having 2 names is perfectly normal. While you do say that the Chinese name is an act of acknowledging your roots, you don't really delve into how you resolved the insecurity you felt at having 2 names.

The story about your interaction with Leyla seems to be a distraction in this instance. You used it as an opening hook but then did not pick up on the interaction again until almost the very end. My suggestion is for you to just omit the interaction so that you can focus the discussion more on clarifying why having 2 names could be considered something normal on your part.

Don't just explain the significance of having 2 names in the essay. Explain it in a way that helps the reviewer get to know you better. I learned about the Chinese culture attached to the act, but I learned very little about how having 2 names affected you as a person other than it made you insecure. Even then, I wasn't clear as to why you were insecure. What is the main reason you were insecure at having 2 names? Surely it has to be more than just about some people not being able to pronounce your Chinese names. Why did you fear being an outcast at having a Chinese name? How did you overcome these negative feelings? As a result of these insecurities and apprehensions, what kind of person were you back then? Who are you now?

Having 2 names may have been an idea that you once questioned. So after gaining clarity or a self realization about its importance, who do you think you have become today all because you questioned the reason behind the idea of having 2 names? The essay needs to show a sense of growth and maturity in your discussion. It should not just discuss the issue. Remember, this is a written interview. Therefore, you must present a deeply self analytical discussion of your chosen idea in relation to who you are or have become.


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