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How is My Name Translated to Chinese?

Home < Professional < Chinese Business Card Translation < FAQ

Transliteration

Most of the time your name is translated, more accurately, transliterated, by sound. For example, William becomes Wei Lian, two Chinese characters that sound like William in English.

This seems easy until you consider how many different ways Wei Lian can be written in Chinese.

Chinese is a tonal language, and many characters sound exactly the same. There are 27 characters that look different and have different meanings but are all pronounced Wei. And wait, that's just Wei in the 1st tone. There are 33 additional Wei's in the 2nd tone, 52 in the 3rd tone, 47 in the 4th tone. And there are 44 characters pronounced Lian in the 2nd tone.

This is like the English dear and deer. The two sound the same, but you don't want to mistake "my dear" with "my deer." In Chinese, hundreds of words sound the same and are distinguished only by tonal differences.

The number of possible transliterations increases dramatically when a name doesn't match exactly any Chinese sound and several similar sounds have to be considered.
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