A large number of Asian newcomers, especially Chinese, are using English names that don’t match the one on their passports when they come to Canada.
The person you want to remember will always be in your mind, it has nothing to do with the name,” Zhao says.
Rui Zhao, a third year student from University of Toronto Scarborough campus, calls himself Ray. Ray has the same pronunciation as his original Chinese name, but he changed it because it was easier for English speakers to read. He was asked to provide an English name by his language course instructor from Green Path, an admissions program for Chinese high school graduates to get access to the school.
In recent years students are sometimes asked by instructors to use an English name for the language course because it’s easier to remember.
However, Zhao doesn’t think it’s necessary. “The person you want to remember will always be in your mind,” Zhao says. “It has nothing to do with the name.”
Michael Li, a recruitment officer with Green Path, encourages students to keep their given names.
Based on his experience, Li says it’s hard to add an English name onto a legal name, so choosing ‘Michael,’ for instance, is for non-official use only.
“In order for you to live in Canada without any name problem, you’d best just keep your legal name all the time,” Li says.
“We communicated with our instructors that if the student leaning towards to have their own names … Just leave it.”
Mispronunciation of names is the leading reason many choose to be called by English names.
“Most Westerners have problems in pronouncing ‘x’ and ‘q’ in Chinese names, it sometimes puzzles them,” says Donald Chen, the president of Chinese Cultural Association of Toronto. He thinks having an English name will make the person easier to remember as well.
“Honestly, I always have problems pronouncing many of my employees and friends from India,” says Chen.
“Their names are much too long and very hard for me to remember. For me, changing my first name to Donald has significantly simplified my life at work and in my dealings with the government as a chartered professional accountant … [it] made my identity more consistent to Canadian society.”