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Chinese Domain Market Newsletter

During the 6 months at a boy school, I was like living in a war zone. Our classroom was situated on the 4th floor and across the street was a much better girl school. When the teacher was talking, we made paper planes and wrote messages. As soon as he started writing on the blackboard, we launched our attack with an array of paper planes flying across the street. Sadly, we did not get any date this way because not even one plane came back. Here's the post.

June 28, 2016 (Tue)

How I translated a domain executive's name to Chinese


Recently I had an email correspondence with Trent Tucker, an executive at a domain company which is doing very well in China. During our conversation I realized he did not have a Chinese name, so I volunteered to create one for him. I've asked him for the permission to share this experience.

Why do you need a Chinese name when doing business with China? The answer is the same as that to another question: Why do some Chinese have English names? To help your customers remember you! And this is also the same reason why short and easy-to-remember domain names are in high demand. We want our customers to easily remember our company name, staff names, product names, as well as our address in the digital world.

A good name is vital. Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, had a plain Chinese name 柏藤 (= BAI, cane). However, when he arrived in the colony, his name became 彭定康 (= PENG, stability and peace). The new name is very Chinese and gave the residents hope during the transition back to China. He succeeded in connecting with the residents.

So, how are names translated to Chinese? Unfortunately, there is no standard way. My preferred method is to match a translated Chinese name with its original English name. In other words, I'll take part of a family name to form a Chinese family name, and part of a given name to form a Chinese given name. If this is not possible, then I'll let my creative mind wander, hoping something will come up.

In Chinese, we write our family name first, followed by our given name. In most cases, the family name has one character and the given name two characters. (Exceptions do exist, such as 2-character family names and 1-character given names.) Now, let's look at the exercise. I had also asked two Chinese friends to help and brainstorm some ideas.

We looked at the family name (Tucker) and the given name (Trent) and tried to find Chinese names that sound similar to the English name. The consensus was that "Tucker" is a difficult name to translate because it is not associated with any common Chinese name naturally, so we had to stretch our imagination a little bit in order to find a name that rhymes with it. Here are the names we created.

1. 唐春 (TANG Chun)
Taken from Tucker Trent. Tang is the 25th most popular family name in China and it also means "Chinese". Chun refers to the spring season, so the name gives you a sense of vitality. Baidu search showed that this name is actually used and gender neutral. The meaning is good and the pronunciation is easy. The biggest drawback is that the family name TANG and Tuc do not sound very close.

2. 陈唐可 (CHEN Tang Ke)
Taken from Trent Tucker. Chen is the 5th most popular family name in China. Ke means "acceptable" so the given name implies that you are accepted by the Chinese people. Baidu search did not show anyone using this name. The meaning is very good but the pronunciation is less smooth than the first one.

While Trent is the only one to make the decision, I like the first one because of its good meaning and better pronunciation. Finally, if you are not careful, you may end up with some funny translations, which may be excellent icebreaker but not serious message. Here are some fun examples of the name Trent Tucker in Chinese.

ChinesePinyinMeaning
特醇TE ChunVery refined wine. (Are you selling wine?)
陈坦克CHEN Tan KeA military tank. (Want to bully your customers?)
陈堂客CHEN Tang Ke A female guest. (Want only female customers?)

If you'd like to know more about the common Chinese names, visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_Chinese_surnames