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Most Australian universities have a large number of international students. Common countries of origin include China, Singapore, and Malaysia. When interacting with students, it's much nicer if you can learn their name and pronounce it correctly. To reduce the scope of this question, I thought I'd limit it to Chinese names, but it could be broadened to include other Asian countries.

Several challenges emerge with Chinese names for an Australian (and presumably others from North America, Europe, etc.):

  • challenges of pronunciation
  • challenges when reading a Chinese name of knowing which part of the full name is the name to address the student by
  • challenges in remember the name. In particular, I find it difficult to remember a name that I can't pronounce. Furthermore, the less familiar I am with a name and the fewer associations I have with a name, the harder I find it is to remember.


  • How can I learn how to pronounce names of Chinese students?
  • How can I better recall names of Chinese students? e.g., get acquainted with common names, build some semantic knowledge around Chinese names.

I'd be particularly interested in any good online resources for this purpose.

UPDATE: Following the suggestion of @scaaahu I have asked this question also on Chinese Stack Exchange.com . I normally would not cross-post, but I think that this question might be a rare exception to the rule where cross-posting will provide complementary perspectives.

1 Answer 1

Learning how to pronounce

As has already been mentioned, the best way is probably to ask the person yourself. As a Chinese, I don't expect a non-Chinese to be able to pronounce my Chinese name correctly; pronouncing the pinyin is good enough. Furthermore, I wouldn't expect a non-Chinese to know how to get the four tones correct.

However, if you're curious, and if you know the exact Chinese characters, one convenient resource is to use Google Translate's audio tool to play back Chinese words:


You'll need to either cut and paste the characters into the text box, or use the handwriting tool to input the characters. Note that the accuracy of the handwriting tool is likely dependent on getting the stroke order correct.

Remembering Chinese names

Unless the Chinese name is very common, it's likely very hard to remember a person's Chinese name without writing it down. In academic circles, if the person has a publication record, you could get hold of this indirectly by getting a journal reference to a paper authored by the person. Alternatively, with social media, you could add/follow the person via Research Gate, LinkedIn or Facebook. Now that you have the name in writing, you could also check on the web as to how it is pronounced.