Chinese is a much more complex language than English. They have a whole other level of language rooted in the characters. These characters, while very intimidating, are actually intricate and beautiful representations of words and meaning. There is actually even a level of Feng Shui in these characters called the Five Elements. It is important for these elements to be balanced. The elements are Fire, water, stone, metal, and wood. If you have a lot of Fire, you might want some water in your English name, so you pick Ocean!
In China you can have a variant of a name that quite literally no one else has. It can be a very unique character with a meaning deeply rooted in your family’s values. So oftentimes Chinese people will try to find a name that no one else has and invent a name himself or herself, like Harevil. Yes, this is a real life example.
Chinese people put a lot of emphasis on the meaning of a name. This is a key difference that is often hard for Chinese people to understand. For example, Kendall — a really cool and strong name — actually means "Valley beside the River Kent." So instead people will often opt for the literal and choose a name like Beauty, Paradise, or Smile.
In creating BestEnglishName.com I have spent a lot of time understanding these cultural differences as expressed through names. I completely understand how English names can be confusing. For example, Violet is a beautiful name, color, as well as flower, but neither Green nor Hydrangea are accepted as English names. The name Taylor can be for a girl or a boy, but Gary is strictly a name for a man. The name Mackenzie is a very popular and cute girl name, but it actually means "son of." It’s confusing.
On our website we try to create content that is targeted to Chinese people making this decision. We try to express the importance of an English name in an international setting. We do our best to explain English names, their history, and how we as ’foreigners’ choose a name. Our clients and users range from students in middle school starting to learn English for the first time, to a young professional at a multi-national company, to a mom in LA having her child in the US and needing name to put on his or her passport.
While our website began with the task of assisting Chinese people to choose an English name, our mission has evolved into what we think our users ultimately want and need — to feel confident and comfortable when meeting foreigners. Our website will soon expand to provide a fun and engaging platform to not only give them the essentials like a good English name, but to allow them to have more understanding of how their culture and the culture of traditional English speakers can truly merge. After all, this generation of Chinese is creating a new world culture for us all!