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|title=How to Say Chinese Names in English
|keywords=how, pronounce, Chinese names
|description=The most complete guide for pronouncing Chinese names in English without having to learn Chinese
|image_alt=Logo of How to Say Chinese Names in English

Revision as of 20:15, 1 March 2020

How to Say Chinese Names in English

with 166,872 Chinese first and last names

and 816 audios of all Mandarin Chinese syllables and their closest English pronunciations

Quick start

Chinese names can be difficult to say for English speakers (for example, try to say "Zixuan" or my name "Boxiao"). This website shows you the easiest way to say the names of your Chinese friends, relatives, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, students, subordinates, professors, managers, clients, business partners, competitors, and officials. Hopefully, this will reduce the communication barrier and make your neighborhood and workplace a little bit more diverse and inclusive than yesterday.

Simply enter the first or last name (not together) you want to search in the search box, and press Enter. Try "Zixuan", "Boxiao", "Beijing", and "Shanghai" to see how it works. The goal is to help you say Chinese syllables in their closest English pronunciations without learning Chinese. Find more about this website here.

Basic knowledge of Chinese names
  • Mandarin Chinese syllables are Romanized in English alphabet called "Pinyin" ("spell of sounds").
  • Chinese family names usually have one syllable, and given names usually no more than two. Some rare family names have two syllables, such as Ouyang, Sima, and Zhuge. Each Chinese character is one syllable.
  • In China, people state their last names (family names) first, and first names (given names) last. I call myself Li Boxiao in China (Li is my family name), but in western countries, I call myself Boxiao Li, following the western tradition.
  • In news articles, famous Chinese figures are often referred in Chinese tradition, e.g., Xi Jinping (Xi is family name) and Yao Ming (Yao is family name).
  • It is common for two unrelated Chinese to share the same family name, but sharing the same given name is much less common.
Syllables in Chinese
Fun facts
  • Not all Chinese nationals have their names pronounced in Pinyin. Exceptions include:
    • Ethnic minority names are often pronounced in their native languages, e.g., Aisin Gioro, Bat-Erdene, Mehmet, Tenzin, etc.
    • People in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan regions often use different Pinyin systems, e.g., Cantonese Pinyin or Wade-Giles Romanization. The names of Chinese nationals in the past may also be in different Pinyin systems, e.g., Mao Tse-tung (in Wade-Giles Romanization) is Mao Zedong in Pinyin.
    • Some people have English given names or gave themselves English names. For example, Jack Ma and Jackie Chan (this Chan is Cantonese Pinyin; its Mandarin Pinyin equivalent is Chen).
  • Very occasionally, a non-traditional Chinese given name might have more than two syllables.
  • Some people in the past had a one-syllable given name and a two-syllable “style name” or “courtesy name”, often used interchangeably. This may cause confusion when reading classic Chinese novels or studying historical figures.
  • Each Chinese syllable can be said in four tones: high-flat, rising, dip-rise, and falling tones. Changing tones will change its meaning. The same syllable with the same tone can also correspond to different Chinese characters.

I thank Timothy Tokar, Adwait Chawathe, Amit Singh, Matthieu Rousset, Carla Co, Ruiting Wu, Yushi (Russell) Zhao, and Zhao (Zoe) Zhang from Chevron for their feedback, and my wife Liqin Sang for her continuous support. I thank my company Chevron for her persistent commitment in diversity and inclusion, which inspired the creation of this website.