“My English name is Smacker! ” (Fun video clip from sexy beijing)

Name and naming practices have a cultural context. Naming someone in English in an english-speaking environment will be different from naming someone in English in a non-English speaking environment, such as in China. So, why do many Chinese people adopt an English name? This video clip from the series Sexy Beijing (a parody of Sex and the City) provides interesting insights. All in all, language is a tool for social functions. English names in China have a range of functions beyond the mere provision of an identifier.

Use in the classroom:  show the video after practicing “greetings” and “asking about names” and other such typical first weeks of class items (first-semester level). the repeated question-answer sequences provide listening practice and grammar reinforcement. Then students can discuss whether they have a Chinese name or not, what their name means, and what is the story behind the name (heritage learners will have a different story from non-heritage learners, typically).

Then the teacher can provide additional cultural discussions with 1) the quora thread by clicking this link:

And 2) Deborah Fallows’ Dreaming in Chinese“, Chapter 6, A brief introduction to Chinese names”. See a review of the book in New York Times here.

Students can use this worksheet to choose a Chinese name: Your_Chinese_Name

(if you use or like these ideas and the handout, could you leave a comment or click the “like” button? 🙂 Thanks!)

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