A rose by any other name: Choosing a foreign language name

Many people choose a name in their adopted language, in order to communicate more easily with people who are native speakers.  If you decide to choose a new alias, it will show people you are eager to involve yourself in their language and culture.  It also helps conversation move more smoothly, as saying names in foreign languages and accents interrupts the flow of native speech.

I’m sure we’ve all seen a few adopted names that have made us giggle to ourselves.  So how do you choose a name that won’t be old-fashioned, odd, meaningless, or inappropriate?

Choose something similar to your existing name. This is not necessary, and sometimes not possible, but it will help both you and others remember what it is.

Get a second opinion. Talk to a native speaker you trust (more than one, if possible), and who can explain the name to you (or give you some more options).

Ask if your name “sounds right” – that is, it’s not obsolete or weird.  I was listening to a female friend choosing a Chinese name, and a Chinese guy remarked that he would never marry a girl who was called one of the options.  A name may sound fine to you, but it may be for the opposite gender.  Typically, only native speakers know this kind of thing.

Check for other meanings or connotations. Make sure you’re aware of any other meanings, or words that sound similar.  When my father was choosing an English name, he rejected several names because they sounded like unpleasant nouns in English.  In the end he decided not to have an English name at all, which of course he had every right to do.

Go with something you like! Whether it be unconventional or unusual, if it means something special to you, go for it.

Have you had to choose a foreign name?  How did you choose it, and were you happy with your decision?

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