Yesterday’s post had to do with Chinese baby names, and Chinese New Year is coming up this weekend, so I thought today would be the perfect day to talk about how to pronounce Chinese names.
If you’re totally unfamiliar with Chinese names, here are the two biggest tips I can give you:
- In Chinese, the letter Q sounds a lot like “ch.”
- In Chinese, the letter X sounds a lot like “sh.”
Of course those aren’t the exact sounds — the Chinese Q and X don’t have equivalent sounds in English — but “ch” and “sh” are close. Wikipedia’s explanation, on the pinyin page, is a bit better:
- Q is like the sound in the middle of “punch yourself.”
- X is like the sound in the middle of “push yourself.”
To hear the exact sounds of Q and X, listen to a few of the audio files at the Mandarin Chinese Phonetics Table.
Now let’s try some names.
One of yesterday’s names was the female name Qinglan. Because Q sounds like “ch,” the pronunciation is similar to ching lan. (The a-sound in the second syllable is like the a-sound in “father.”)
None of yesterday’s names had a X, so let’s use Xiaolan. (This happens to be the Chinese name of Elaine Chao, 24th U.S. Secretary of Labor.) The X sounds like “sh” or “shy,” so the pronunciation is shyau lan.
Here are a few more Chinese names featuring the letters Q and X. The pinyin transcriptions are followed by my own approximate phonetic pronunciations, in italics. (If you’re a Mandarin speaker and can suggest more accurate pronunciations, I’d appreciate it!)
|Qiaoping, chyau ping|
Qinghua, ching hwa
Weiqiong, way chyong
|Xiaoping, shyau ping|
Xinghua, shing hwa
Weixiong, way shyong
What other Chinese names do you have a hard time pronouncing?