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  1. Member
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    #1

    How should I pronounce Chinese names in English?

    Chinese characters are characterised with four tones. So are Chinese names. I know it is difficult for native speakers of English to pronounce the tones properly, and most anchors of English pronounce the Chinese names without tones. But in China-based English programmes, most anchors who are Chinese actually pronounce the names with tones.

    I wonder whether or not I should pronounce Chinese names in English without tones? Are they both acceptable?
    Please correct my writing if there's any grammatical solecism.

  2. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: How should I pronounce Chinese names in English?

    This is not a matter of acceptability. It's just a matter of being clearly understood by the person you're talking to.

    Since you are a native Chinese speaker, I suggest you pronounce the words as you normally would when speaking Chinese. If the person you're talking to doesn't understand what you're saying, you may need to adopt a different strategy.

  3. probus's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: How should I pronounce Chinese names in English?

    The truth is that it really does not matter. Very few native English speakers will know whether you are pronouncing the tones or not. That is so because most of us find it very difficult to hear them, because tones are normally not very significant in English. Only those few who have studied a tonal language like Chinese are likely to notice.
    Last edited by probus; 19-Aug-2019 at 04:38. Reason: Clarify & fix typos

  4. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #4

    Re: How should I pronounce Chinese names in English?

    I have lived in countries with tonal languages, and few native English speakers would notice the difference between high, mid and low, high falling, low rising, etc. To be honest, I didn't worry myself blind about pedantic accuracy when speaking and people generally understood me.
    Last edited by Tdol; 19-Aug-2019 at 16:08. Reason: adding English

  5. Senior Member
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    #5

    Re: How should I pronounce Chinese names in English?

    In general, when speaking English try to pronounce non-English names the way native English speakers do. Some people do make a point of trying to mimic the supposedly correct foreign pronunciation whenever possible. But it sounds fantastically pretentious even in the mouth of a native speaker.

    Also, please try to understand the traditional English ways of saying foreign names are not consciously or politically incorrect: they are merely well-established.

    We say Rome, Paris, Vienna, Moscow, Peking, Canton, Manchuria, Hong Kong. "Roma", "Paree", "Moscva", "Beijing", "Guangdong", "Heilongjiang", "Xianggang" will sound odd or ridiculous -- to some more than to others. It is true that "Beijing", "Guangdong", and "Heilongjiang" are very common and are becoming ever more so. But people who still say Peking, Canton and Manchuria grew up saying it that way and do not mean to insult.
    Retired proofreader. ESL tutor. Not a teacher. Nor a typist, evidently.

  6. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #6

    Re: How should I pronounce Chinese names in English?

    In BrE, I hear Beijing, except for Peking duck in some restaurants.

  7. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: How should I pronounce Chinese names in English?

    I think most people in the UK say Beijing nowadays.

    On a related and personal note—

    Interestingly, I've started saying Napoli. I'm not sure when or why this happened but for some reason I simply can't bring myself to say Naples any more, especially to Italians.

  8. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #8

    Re: How should I pronounce Chinese names in English?

    I used to say the Ukraine, but lost the article along the way after it became independent.

  9. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: How should I pronounce Chinese names in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    In BrE, I hear Beijing, except for Peking duck in some restaurants.
    I do too but I'm not convinced that all the people who say it realise it's the city that used to be called Peking. In the same way, I know people who clearly know where Mumbai is but have no idea it's the place they used to call Bombay. The same goes for Calcutta/Kolkata, although the latter isn't used as much yet by most people in the UK. I'm sure there are plenty more examples.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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