Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Not much to do about an adopted name

By Lisa Carducci (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-08 07:36

Not much to do about an adopted name

Actress Angelababy established venture capital fund AB Capital in May 2015, whose first batch of investment projects included the e-commerce company Ymatou and fruit and vegetable juice brand HeyJuice.[Photo/IC]

A Chinese actress has sparked a debate by using Angelababy as her name in publications. Angelababy is not a literal translation of Yang Ying, her original name, but just an adopted name. Born in Shanghai, Yang made a career in Honk Kong; she is also known as Yeung Wing (closer to the Cantonese pronunciation) and Angela Yeung Wing.

Names! Well, whenever I visit a bank in Beijing, I'm asked to write my "English name". Just to prove a point to the bank employee, I answer: "I have no English name, what do I do?" What bank employees mean is "write your name in Latin alphabet", as opposed Cyrillic, Persian, or Greek alphabets, or Chinese, Korean or Japanese characters. But there is no English alphabet; English uses Latin letters.

Yang Ying is easy to pronounce (when written in Latin alphabet, or pinyin) for most non-Chinese people. But it means nothing to non-Chinese, while an "angel with a baby face" suggests an image.

I am not in favor of translating foreign names into Chinese characters, or vice-versa. Chinese people who visit museums in the West can read pinyin, and no matter how the names of Eugene Delacroix, Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt in the Latin alphabet are pronounced, they will be closer to the original than their Chinese translation. After all, Lu Xun, Lao She, Ba Jin, Mo Yan, Zhang Yimou or Gong Li would not have been better known had they adopted English names.

What I find totally illogical, and frustrating, is that globalization seems to be synonymous with "Englishization" of the world. In fact, "Englishization" began even before the world had heard about globalization. For example, the names of Italian cities of Venezia, Napoli and Firenze, to name only a few, have been translated into Chinese not according to their original Italian pronunciation, but from their "Englishized" (or Anglicized) names Venice has become Wei-ni-si (威尼斯); Naples Na-bu-le-se (那不勒斯) and Florence, Fo-luo-lun-sa (佛罗伦萨). Illogical!

But the fuss over Angelababy seems uncalled for. Yang Ying's adopted name, in my view, is not a bad choice. Her real name remains Yang Ying. Or, if you prefer a translation, Yang Ying 杨颖 means "Poplar Clever". It ain't that bad, is it?

The author is a Canadian writer living in Beijing.

Most Viewed Today's Top News