What’s in a name?

…Well, a lot, apparently. Juliet had no idea what she was talking about.

Along with globalisation, there comes a rather long-winded debate in Vietnam that I just find slightly silly and a bit like arguing that an apple is a fruit and an orange is a fruit but an apple is not an orange (that’s not really a saying, I made that up :P).

So, should Vietnamese (or Chinese or Thai or X nationality, for that matter) people take on English names when living overseas/working with foreigners/not working with foreigners and not living overseas/ever?

I’ve been called Hen or something that rhymes with Heinz ketchup. And regardless of famous English rule of “i before e except after c”, I’ve lost count of the number of time people have spelled my name Hein. Trust me, I know it’s annoying when people mispronounce/misspell your name. But maybe my name is still a relatively easy name to write and pronounce, I don’t see the fuss adopting or not adopting an English name. But other people apparently do put up a fuss.

There are two arguments to this debate:

  • Yes, when you live overseas and your name can be mispronounced into something rude/unpleasant then by all means, go by some other name. 
  • No, even if you’re threatened with death you still should not change anything about the name that your parents gave you because you should have pride/be patriotic/not do it just because having an English name is cool

And then there’s the stance of “Who cares? No one makes a fuss over foreigners adopting Vietnamese names, we even find it interesting/intriguing. Why do we discriminate against Vietnamese people who adopting foreign names?”

You know what, all three points are valid, and yet there are people who just don’t get that!

As I understand it, one of the things that stirred up this debate is a fad amongst Vietnamese Paris Hilton-like celebrities who are famous for being famous who all have English names regardless of there being no need for it. They live in Vietnam, they “work” (whatever that work is) in Vietnam with Vietnamese people, so why? Indeed.  And this, I must say, is a case when it’s really stupid to adopt English names because it doesn’t stem from consideration and respect for others or for yourself, it’s a fad that is …well, pointless. 

A friend of mine worked in a company (in Vietnam!) where it is compulsory for you to have an English name. I think this is ridiculous because 1) even if the company is foreign, they have a base in Vietnam, so deal with it! When in Rome... and 2) it's forcing one culture on another. I'm not going to compare it to the Chinese Qing-dynasty queue order because it's a rather slippery slope, but it is nonetheless, not very respectful of the home culture.

Personally, I think that even if you live overseas, but you have a relatively innocent name like mine, you shouldn’t feel the need or pressure to adopt another English name. I think if foreign people are capable of pronouncing your name in your native tongue and it doesn’t get mangled into something too unpleasant, then they should be given a chance to show you respect by calling you by your birth name. But that’s just my opinion. In this case, if you do adopt your name, it should be considered a personal choice and because you live overseas, an English name just makes your day to day life a little more convenient.

And then there are cases of Vietnamese names when written in English (or French for that matter), just looks rude. My Dung is a Vietnamese name with Chinese roots () that means beautiful countenance but it looks rather problematic on an English-language document.  And then I pity the man whose name is Le Chien who lives in France. Spelling aside, there names like Phuc or Bich that are just bad when you pronounce it wrong. These are cases when I would say, yes, for the purity of both our languages, please adopt an English name if you live overseas or interact with foreigners on a regular basis.  In these cases, it’s not a matter of pride or coolness or patriotism, it’s more a matter of being considerate of both the person who might have to say your name and of yourself, who will otherwise hear very unpleasant things when you are being called.

Not all Vietnamese names get mangled into unpleasant things though. At my office there is a girl named Quynh Anh and it gets mispronounced into Queen Anne which is rather interesting.

As to the case of expats living in Vietnam having Vietnamese names. This is the double standard. Vietnamese find foreigners who have Vietnamese names rather an exciting phenomenon. It’s a case of OMG, Western people actually wants to copy something of ours!!!

This is, I think, slightly different from Vietnamese people taking English names when they live overseas, which is all too usual, so much that sometimes it is considered the norm. Expats living in Vietnam taking Vietnamese names is a lot more unusual and it’s usually a gesture of friendship, it usually happens with expats who actually speak Vietnamese (which is not as usual as you might think) and yes, it does make people friendlier to you in certain circumstances.  

Case in point: I knew a family, whose children went to my school and everyone in their family had a Vietnamese name. Part of that was due to the fact that they’d been living in Vietnam since the time when we still see foreigners on the street and point at them yelling “Tây! Tây!” Now, it’s not so unusual to see expats living and working in Vietnam so that doesn’t happen (as often) anymore, at least in the city. Another reason, I’d hazard a guess, was that at the time when they first came to Vietnam, people were not so used to trying to figure out how to pronounce “complicated” foreign names. But maybe the most important point is, their Vietnamese names didn’t replace their real names. It was more like a nickname and most of the time they were still addressed by their real names.

I don’t think you’ve committed any kind of crime if you want an English name, but I think there should be a reason for it, even if it’s just convenience. This is such a relative issue that you can’t possibly say “you have to do this” or “you can’t do this”, which some people are trying to do.
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Camel and leopard

camel jacket : ZARA

leopard bag : ZARA

tops : ダズリン
shorts : moussy
tights : FOREVER21

shoes : jeffrey campbell




指輪が多いねー( ゚,_・・゚)ブプッ

あとーだーい好きなJeffrey CampbellのLitaシリーズのブラックを購入!!

ではまたー(`・∀・´) えっへん!

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I'm going to be published!

Well, not really me, per se.

So last year, a friend introduced me to a book editor at a publishing house in Ho Chi Minh City and the editor asked me to translate a book for them from English to Vietnamese. The book? Brand New World by Max Lenderman.

Whilst it is a very very interesting book about marketing in BRIC countries, this post is more to talk about the art of translation in general.

I have just received the final edit of the translated book and it's due to be published at the end of this month. Let me tell you, there's something about seeing your name on a book, even as just the translator, that is just...I can't describe it. I was literally jumping up and down. Thankfully I took the day off and wasn't at work because I wouldn't be able to concentrate on work after receiving that. (My taking two days off work had nothing to do with the book).

Of course I knew that it was going to be published sooner or later (they paid me, after all) and that I translated it, but it wasn't until you see the actual page, with the book's name and your name on the same page, that it really starts to sink it. I can't wait to have the actual book in my hand though.


Anyway, I'm looking at the pdf of this book. It's 328 pages in full, with cover pages and end notes which I did not translate, but for this book I did translate about 280 pages, which now when I'm looking at all of it one place, I'm sort of in disbelief. I'm even more in disbelief reading back at it, because I don't remember writing any of these words but nonetheless, the words are here on the page. The unfamiliarness wasn't due to the edits, most of it was actually my words when I compared to my manuscript. I swear I'm reading it, and the first chapter sounds familiar but that's because I agonised so much over it but then as I go on, I start reading it as if a book someone else had written and translated, that I was reading this for the first time. Which is weird because at the back of my mind I knew I translated it but it doesn't feel like it. I think it's partly because the actual original words and the ideas behind the words weren't mine to begin with, so it doesn't feel I'm reading myself.

The only problem with actually having translated a book is that for a while you go a bit funny and read everything with the intent to translate it. I was reading a translation of Eat, Pray, Love and I kept translating it back into English from Vietnamese. But that's partly because the translation wasn't that great to begin with and it distracted me (I don't mean I am by any means a perfect translator, but this particular translation of Eat, Pray, Love wasn't to my style. Then again maybe that's just the original book itself). Then I watched the movie and was bored and so right now it doesn't look like I'm going to be finishing the book.

Back to translation. Now that I look back at it, my whole "career" in translation is rather scary, mostly because I'm totally making things up as I go and I'm not remotely qualified to do it; I still feel like I have no business translating a book that is going to actually be published. The most obvious reason for that is that my Vietnamese isn't even that good to begin with. I went to Vietnamese school for exactly 3 years of my life and the rest of it was spent in English-speaking schools and university with very limited expose to learning Vietnamese as a language. My grasp of vocabulary is woefully limited and when it comes to marketing lingo? I swear I looked up every single marketing term on the internet for the Vietnamese translation. And yet it was because I had so lost touch with Vietnamese in my education that prompted me to get into translation in the first place.

It started when in my first year of university in Australia, having too much time on my hand and in an environment with too little opportunity to use Vietnamese and I was afraid that after three years here, my Vietnamese would be even worst than it already it. At the time, for reasons now unknown to me, I was member of an online forum about movies and they were starting a group who would translate movie news from English into Vietnamese. I joined. I totally didn't intend to stay there for the whole three years of university. The circumstances in which I left the group and the forum wasn't the most...cordial, shall we say, but looking back, I can't help but be grateful for that time because as useless as it sounded, spending all that time online, I learned so much and met some people who are now really close friends (including said friend who introduced me to said book editor who offered me said book :P). So yes, I went to translating gossip news about Lindsay Lohan's DUI cases to translating a book, but hey, you had to start somewhere, right?
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