Many Chinese choose English names for themselves so that Westerners (more specifically, English speaking Westerners) can pronounce them more easily. Because if we paint real names like Wang Ming and Zhao Hong You can't understand. Even if we write our names in pinyin, you English speakers will never bother to learn how to pronounce. You always make mistakes or forget how to pronounce. We need to teach you every time.
In other words, the vast majority of Chinese choose English names out of courtesy to your English speakers. When we try to communicate with you and do business with you, we will try our best to make your work easier. You should all accept it with gratitude, instead of thinking that we should have done this, or that the Chinese did it because we didn't like our names.
Why do we keep our last name? Because most Chinese surnames are single words and easier to pronounce, we think these Westerners can certainly learn how to pronounce "Wang, Chen or Zhao" surnames. Because the name is very important, it is our first label. We really hope to keep the integrity of the name when it is romanized. Because surnames transcend ourselves, they represent our connection with our families, and changing surnames has a significant impact on people's identities.
So, the next time you see a Chinese (or any other person from a non English speaking country whose name is obviously Anglo Saxon), you should be a little grateful and respectful, because they must show you a lot of respect.
This is actually a very interesting question. If we carefully observe the global Chinese community in the past 100 years, we can better understand why Chinese people usually prefer to communicate with foreigners using English names plus Chinese surnames, no matter where they come from.
Let me make it clear: Wong is not a Chinese family name, it is just a way of spelling English (Cantonese romanization system), so that non Chinese people can pronounce the real Chinese family name wang. We can also spell it as "wang" in the phonetic system. In most cases, this can be used to judge whether the person is from the mainland. Peter is added in front of Wang to ensure that non Chinese people can easily communicate with him, whether his real name is Wang Wangcai or Wang Laifu To some people, this sounds much better than their own Chinese names.
Nowadays, if people in Chinese Mainland work in foreign companies, have business dealings with foreigners, or even have business dealings with Chinese people from Hong Kong / Taiwan, China / Singapore / Malaysia, they are more likely to use English names. These names may come from their primary/middle school English teachers, or they may be completely fabricated. Sometimes, these names do not have universal significance as "names", such as Apple Zhang, Liu Orange, Gu Gechen, Wang Fei, Zhao Xiaotu, Happy Zhu… No Chinese people will really take these names seriously, because they know they are just code names, not as meaningful as their Chinese names.
The use of English names in foreign countries will hide your Chinese identity to some extent, and the preservation of surnames can avoid this.
Take Jimmy Locke, Mr. Locke's father, for example. His real name is Luo Rongshuo. When he was born in a small town in Guangdong Province, China, he had no English name. When he was 13 years old, he and his family came to the United States. All registration documents must be in English, including his name. Later, he spelled his name Youh K. Locke.
Later, he studied in a high school in Seattle, and then joined the United States Army as a staff sergeant (chef). He fought in Normandy and many other battlefields. But his English is still poor. People don't want to talk to him, and then they simply change his name to James, which makes him fully integrated into American culture. We don't know whether he chose the name of James voluntarily or was just assigned the name, but this is the official document signed by James for the rest of his life.
I don't know whether Chinese people all over the world are like this, but Chinese people in Indonesia may have their reasons:
1. Indonesia once prohibited the use of Chinese names, and even formally stipulated the obligation of Indonesian Chinese to change their names. In order to retain their surnames, Indonesian Chinese usually change their names to Indonesian/Western/fictitious names, which are vaguely similar to their Chinese surnames. Therefore, surnames like "Pek" become "Putih", "Ang" become "Angka", "Lim" become "Salim", "Tan" become "Tanu", etc.
2. It is prohibited to learn and speak Chinese. Therefore, the second and third generations of Indonesian Chinese cannot give their children Chinese names. In any case, you cannot name them in a language you do not understand.
3. It is prohibited to celebrate and embrace Chinese culture. In Indonesia, people are required to have religious beliefs, but you can't say that you only accept sacrifices to Chinese ancestors, because this is prohibited. Therefore, Indonesian Chinese usually adopt Buddhism and use Buddhist/Sanskrit names, such as "Dharma", "Ratna", "Yoda" and "Kusuma", or they use Christian names and Baptist/Western names, such as "Charles", "John" and "Maria".
4. Recently, these prohibitions have been abolished and are no longer valid. But what has been done is irreversible. Therefore, if you see that Indonesian Chinese use non Chinese names, this is evidence of racial discrimination against Chinese.
I have taught English to Chinese students. They tend to use what they call "English names" to promote communication with foreigners. People often think that foreigners may encounter difficulties in Chinese pronunciation. You should notice that when Chinese people mention their English names, they refer to the names they use when speaking English, not necessarily English names. Most people use names that are known by English users, but names in other languages are also common, such as Japanese, French, etc.
There are some interesting stories about Chinese people using English names. One of them didn't stay long in our school. Although I only taught her once, her story left a deep impression on me. The protagonist in my novella Social Murder was named after her. When I saw the name Merlin on the agenda that day, I naturally thought it was a man. Although considering that Chinese names often have no gender distinction, it may be a thoughtless assumption in hindsight.
She explained that she chose Merlin because it was close to her real name. I like this kind of acceptance, obedience and strange Chinese combination. It seems that she has reluctantly accepted the convention of choosing western names when speaking English, but she will not deviate from her true Chinese identity!
Another student of mine, too, simply transliterated his Chinese name into English. His surname was Wang, which simply translated into King. If he stepped into Britain and introduced himself as "Wang", it would bring him some social difficulties. In addition, the course I taught him was business English, so he obviously hoped to have international exchanges.
Less common names are also popular among Chinese students. We occasionally hear the seasonal names "summer" and "autumn" used by women (especially in the United States). Chinese people often use them. I also know a man named "winter". The strangest example I remember was a guy who wanted a name that no one else had. He named himself "bike", and he was not wrong. Until today, I have never met anyone else calling a bike! I also met women called crayons and penguins, which is very interesting.
However, generally speaking, most people use common western names. Men tend to choose traditional and popular names, such as Chris, Daniel, David, Michael, Peter, etc; Relatively speaking, few people deviate from the correct name. Women's choices are often more diverse and can be divided into several distinct groups:
? English names that are no longer popular in the English world, such as Christine, Doris, Ivy, Joyce, Monica, Nancy, Veronica and Vivian. I often wonder if these names were given to my old friend Kathy, who was older and divorced from reality, in his childhood, because these names rarely reflect the true character of these people.
? Names more common in non English languages, such as Anya, Freya, Mia, Mira, Nadia and Yolanda.
? Names similar to Asian names and/or words, such as Eva, Fay, Lily, Lin, Lucy, Sue, Suki and Sun.
The above list is not exhaustive, but if you know how many Chinese "English" names are, you will understand.
Back to the original problem, when they adopted western names, the Chinese did not westernize themselves. We sometimes have a habit of thinking that the views and attitudes of Chinese people are very traditional. This may be because China, as a whole, has made great efforts to emphasize its traditional Chinese identity, but Chinese people are much more modern than we think. They are more sensible about the wider world than you expect. Chinese people are very proud of their personal identity, and their family relationships are very strong, Therefore, a Mr. Huang will never call himself Mr. Smith to adapt to foreign life.
Basically, the English names of Chinese people are very similar to the nicknames used by many people in close friend groups. The only difference is that Chinese "English" names are not used for strict informal and social occasions, but are specifically used to communicate with the wider non Chinese world.
I used to think that Chinese people used different names to speak English so easily, while similar oriental cultures, such as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, rarely did this except when they actually lived in another country, especially when they were born or grew up in another country; But for the Chinese, using different names is part of learning English.
However, when you get to know the Chinese people, you will realize that there is almost no obligation to choose to abide by this custom, which is usually a form of self-expression; A way to establish your identity. Most Chinese people's real names, like other people's names, are partly chosen according to their parents' preferences, and partly to ensure that the child can integrate into the society he or she will grow up in – anywhere in the world.
Most Chinese choose an English name that reflects how they want the world to see them; The Chinese are far from the timid and submissive Asians in popular western folklore. They are a nation with a proud heritage, which constitutes a large part of their personal identity, but they are not restricted by tradition. As a nation, the Chinese people are full of confidence in their position in the world.
Finally, I like young students to use a name that is easier for them to teach foreign idiots how to pronounce. When you consider how arrogant Westerners are to other cultures, it has a poetic sense of justice!