Name First name
Thread poster: Jean-Christophe Duc

Jean-Christophe Duc  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:25
English to French
+ ...
Nov 18, 2015

Hello,
I am working with a Chinese client and I am not sure what is his name or first name, and whether he is male or female.

What is the normal order for names/first names in emails, etc.?
Is Zhang a family or first name?
What is the most appropriate form of address in China? By first name? Sir/Madam?

Thanks


 

J.H. Wang
China
Local time: 00:25
Member (2007)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Zhang is a major family name in China Nov 18, 2015

Since you do not know whether the client is a male or female, you can address it by Dear "first name" for the moment, which I think is acceptable. After you get more specific information about this client, you can address it as Mr,Ms.or Mrs. Zhang accordingly.

Hope this helps.

[Edited at 2015-11-18 14:21 GMT]


 

Sharon Toh, MITI MCIL
Singapore
Local time: 00:25
Member (2009)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Not 100% sure Nov 19, 2015

Without knowing the full name, we never know whether Zhang has to be a surname. Zhang can also be a single character name for all we know. After seeing the other part of the name, we can then tell for sure whether Zhang is the surname or not. If the other part is apparently a name, then Zhang is of course the surname. The problem comes when both parts of the name are single characters and are both common surnames. I've seen such cases before, and I had to ask whther you are this name or that... because different people write the order of their names diferently when writing in English.

 

Sharon Toh, MITI MCIL
Singapore
Local time: 00:25
Member (2009)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Problematic Example Nov 20, 2015

Is Chen Li surnamed Li or Chen? Without seeing the Chinese characters, I am not exactly sure...

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:25
Chinese to English
Zhang most likely a surname; you can always ask Nov 21, 2015

Zhang is a very common surname, and it's not a particularly common given name, so it is very likely that it is your contact's surname. But the most important point is that all Chinese people are aware of this problem, so they will not be offended by a polite question; and Chinese business culture is generally a little less formal than European, so don't worry about being inappropriate. So long as you are polite and friendly, you're very unlikely to go wrong.

 

Sharon Toh, MITI MCIL
Singapore
Local time: 00:25
Member (2009)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Zhang as a given name Nov 21, 2015

Just type some names (e.g. 李章, 陈章, etc.) into Google, and there would be examples of people with such names. Now, we only know that this person's name contains 'Zhang'. If the OP tells us that the full name is, say, Zhang Daming or Daming Zhang, then of course the surname is Zhang for sure.icon_smile.gif Otherwise, I can think of more examples with given names pronounced as Zhang (not just limited to what I wrote above) if I want to.

But yes, I agree that Zhang (张) is a very common Chinese surname. I am just saying that we can't say with certainty that Zhang has to be a surname.


 

David Lin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:25
Member (2013)
English to Chinese
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
just ask courteously Nov 23, 2015

Very interesting discussion here. I agree to most of the advice of our fellow translators.

For me, even though I am a Chinese but if given the names in English by a Chinese I would not have known what they are or the gender of the person. In this situation, I usually address the person without Mr, Mrs, or Ms in the Salutation (of a letter or email) but fill in with the full name of the person. e.g. Dear Zhang or if you have the second name, just "Dear Zhang xxxx,".

I will then write in the postscript (PS: ) under my signature after the key message something like -- since I do not read Chinese and it is my first time contacting you, do you mind telling me what's the best way to address you properly in the future - Mr., Miss, Ms. Mrs, or Dr. and which is your surname (family name) and given name.

As Phil Hand said rightly, just ask in a polite and genuine manner. Usually Chinese colleagues are willing to reply with the same courtesy and don't mind your asking especially they know you're from France (or me from Britain).

As an anecdote, I've just met a woman translator from China. She told me, "My name is Li Li."

It is of course easier for me to address her since both Given name and Surname are identical, but I still asked in a polite manner which "Li" is it for her Surname and which "Li" Given Name.

On another occasion I asked a Chinese client her name. She said "Junyi". I misheard it as "Jenny" since she's lived in London for a very long time I thought it's an English name, and said "Hello, Jenny". She immediately corrected me, saying, "No, my name is Jun-Yi." She was not unhappy of my mistake because I apologized very quickly and asked how to write her name so I can recognize easier through handwriting.

Upon seeing the writing, I noticed the only correct thing I did was it was indeed her given names, but she has a surname which is Zeng.icon_biggrin.gif

[Edited at 2015-11-23 16:51 GMT]


 

Sharon Toh, MITI MCIL
Singapore
Local time: 00:25
Member (2009)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Gender issues Nov 25, 2015

David Lin wrote:
For me, even though I am a Chinese but if given the names in English by a Chinese I would not have known what they are or the gender of the person.


Gender issues can be quite interesting.

I may not know the gender even if given the names in Chinese.icon_frown.gif So I try to avoid making reference to the gender when corresponding with someone whose gender I am not sure (i.e. someone I have not seen in person or whose photo I have not seen).

I have come across many examples. Let me cite one of them here: Chen Li (陈力). Being aware of the Chinese characters of the name (especially 力 for the given name), I thought this person is a guy, but it turns out to be the other way round. I told myself: thank goodness I did not address her as Mr or make any reference to her as a male.

In my mind, if Chen Li is a lady, the name would have been something like 陈丽, 陈莉 or something more common to female names.

The moral of the story is: don't assume!

[Edited at 2015-11-25 01:20 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-11-25 01:22 GMT]


 

David Lin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:25
Member (2013)
English to Chinese
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Not to assume Nov 25, 2015

Sharon Toh, MITI MCIL wrote:

David Lin wrote:
For me, even though I am a Chinese but if given the names in English by a Chinese I would not have known what they are or the gender of the person.


The moral of the story is: don't assume!



This is a really good advice indeed!

Once I was asked to translate an English Death Certificate with all the correspondence of funeral bills and medical records etc. In that case only the English name was given for the diseased who was a Chinese.

I managed to find out the gender of the person from the Death Certificate but the name itself was so hard to tell.

I just had no option but to leave the name as it appears in English since even the survived family members don't know! Apparently the overseas Chinese had lived in the UK for a very long time and he seldom used the Chinese name.

Also, for officialness reason, it's best for me as a translator "not to assume".icon_smile.gif


 


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