I came to Canada just about 6 months ago and was pretty surprised when a lot of my Chinese, Taiwanese or Korean friends introduced themselves with two different names. One was considered their traditional name (one they used in their respective countries) and the other was an “English” name, used primarily with foreigners.
I was confused at first— “why two names? Do you mean that one is your first name and the second is your middle name?”
“No, we have two first names. One we use with English speakers and the other we use in our countries.”
“English speakers find it difficult to pronounce our traditional names, so we just use an English name to make life easier for everyone.”
This concept still seemed new to me; almost everyone I know has just one name, so why were people from a certain cultural background required to have two names?
I found myself thinking about this quite a bit over the past couple of months, creating theories and trying to look at this topic from different angles (as you will find out through subsequent posts). Finally, when we had to pick out a topic for our ANTH 300 final project, this topic almost automatically came to my mind. After a couple of conversations with my TA and professor, this is the final product of my journey in exploring this topic.
While taking up this topic, I approached it with a set of biases, which I constantly make an effort to identify and acknowledge throughout this blog. Sometimes, you will find me going back and forth on the same issue, revisiting the same topic and sometimes completely changing my take on it. This is because this project isn’t meant to have a definitive conclusion or supposed to have a ‘right or wrong’ answer; this is simply my journey in exploring a topic that I find interesting. And this is my way of sharing this with you. Due to the nature of this subject and how dynamic my topic is, it would be unfair to write a research paper about it and keep it to myself. Anthropology as a discipline is about people and thus needs to be made more accessible to the people— to you guys. My objective, therefore, is just to create a platform where this discourse can take place. Hence you, the reader, become an integral part of this project and it would be incomplete without your engagement and active participation. I want you to share your experiences; I want to hear what you have to say. Use the hashtag #OnEnglishNames and let’s get this conversation going!