Fresh(wo)men English class two (autumn 2018) Expressing our likes and dislikes; What’s in a name?

Nimen Hao,

Welcome to our autumn semester classes. Today we will continue with the work we did on expressing our likes and dislikes.

Some practical things

Now, let’s think about some resources you can use to work on your conversational ability in English.

  • We have another reference book to use for this and the next semester. Its called Face2Face intermediate book. We’ll talk about how to access this text in class.
  • A good online dictionary and grammar guide is Cambridge Dictionary (Chinese-English)
  • A free grammar checker called grammerly is useful. If you install it on your laptop it will check all of your writing (emails etc) and indicate where you need to make amendments. This is a great tool if you need to send written communication in faultless English, or for our purposes, to check if the way you’re saying something is grammatically correct (and therefore makes sense).

Some things you can do to improve your spoken English ability.

  • Somethings you can do on your phones. My wife Lu Jian likes to listen to Tiger News.

They’re @

Every week they discuss an interesting English language article, it might be cultural, social, political. They explain many of the words and phrases you might not be so familiar with. Its free to read their weekly articles, and they have courses you can sign up for, but there is a charge for those. We will look at one of the recent articles they read and explain when we talk about celebritities and popular values in a few weeks (we’ll talk about Fan Bingbing).


  • Join an English corner, or Toastmasters or other kind of social group using English.
  • Do your gym, running, sports in English. Run to English language soundtracks or spoken word books. Train with your partner or teammates in English.
  • Block off some other daily activities as  English speaking. For example, you might choose to only use English language for the getting up and breakfast part of your day (in coooperation with your roommates).
  • Listen to English language audiobooks. Find your favourite kind of story and download an audio version to listen to.
  • Find an English Language radio station you like online.
  • Talk with me on the bus to the main campus. I’m happy to talk with students (one person at a time, per journey) if you want to practice your English language skills after class. This semester I will usually catch the 12.30pm bus back to the main campus on Weds, Thurs and Fridays.

Discussion: National Holiday Homework!!


If you remember, I asked you to watch, read or listen to and English language film, tv series (or episode), book, or piece of music.

Let’s break into our small groups and discuss what we thought of the things we watched, read or listened to. Tell each about your text, and why you liked or disliked it. I’ll walk around and listen to your discussions. Then we’ll have a group discussion.

Vocabulary exercises: Likes and dislikes

(based on exercise 1, p6, F2F intermediate)

Last week we categorized the phrases below as

A. Phrases to say something you like

B. Phrases to say something is OK

C. Phrases to say you don’t like something.


So now, let’s do this exercise (based on the exercise in Face2Face, no. 2. page 6)

Look at the list of experiences below.

  1. waiting in queues
  2. doing the washing up
  3. buying new clothes
  4. going on long journeys
  5. getting up early in the morning
  6. watching tv
  7. going to university

Working in your small groups chose the phrase from 1-14 above that most closely matches your feeling about these experiences. Then compare your answers and the reasons for them in your small groups.

Discussion: loving or hating smart phones


Let’s work together to make a list of good and bad things about mobile phones. As we make the list you might like to explain your suggestions.

What’s in an English Name?

We’re going to talk about naming people, and about the Chinese practice of adopting English names.

Many Chinese people have an English name as well as their Chinese name.

Conversely, many foreigners in China adopt a Chinese name. They do so for a several reasons including ease of being understood by Mandarin speakers. Anglophone waigouren in China also adopt Chinese names as a form of respect for Chinese culture and as a gesture of integration (taking part in the local culture and society).

Sine the 1980s, a key reason Chinese people have chosen an English name has been to facilitate doing business with English-speaking (Anglophone) colleagues. This was partially because it seemed easier for Anglophone colleagues to pronounce an English name. It may be that some businesses expect their staff to have English names.

Also, it may be that a normal sounding English name helps a person ‘fit in’ with an Anglophone society when a person travels overseas, or works in a foreign company. Using an English name might give the message that a Chinese person is going to integrate, adopting the cultural habits of the Anglophone country or company  she or he is in.

So, integration is important for Chinese people taking English names, and English people taking Chinese names.

Some Chinese people might think having an English name is a status symbol of education and success, being smart and important enough to have an English name. It shows that a person is multicultural or cosmopolitan, suggesting that the person may be bilingual.

Maybe some people like the idea of rebranding or having another version of themselves (like people have chat names and avatars online).

People adopting an English name in addition to their original name is quite common in China but not as common in other Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Pakistan and India.

One reason for the difference may lie in the Chinese tradition of adapting or changing names for differing contexts (i.e., monastery names, school names, business names, posthumous names, etc).

Instead of adopting an English name, a Chinese person could chose to just use their Chinese first name and family name and expect Anglophone people to learn it. President Xi Jinping, for example, probably doesn’t have an English name (or a chat name or avater).

Some people argue that adopting an English name encourages assimilation (becoming part of the English speaking world) rather than integration (keeping and accomodating our different languages and cultures). It encourages the spread of English language and culture as universal, and thereby lessening the value of Chinese language and culture.

 A quick word about gender.

English language has a gender bias (to some extent). We could think of the example how students are named as a group. Why are first year students called “freshmen“? Isn’t it gender biased? Can we say fresh(wo)men instead? Similarly, why is the head of a company meeting called the “chairman“? Maybe “chairperson” or “the chair” is more gendered balanced.

In many languages people’s first names are gendered. Italians, for example, put “o” on the end of masculine names, and “a” on the end of feminine names like”Angelo” and “Angela”. English doesn’t do this. However, many names are clearly used for one or the other of the two traditional genders: for example, there are not many women called “Harry”, nor boys called “Penelope”.

Although most names are used in a gender specific way, some names are used to name children of masculine and feminine genders, and sometimes names that are used for one gender are used for the other gender. For example, “Toby” is generally a male name but after a famous American actress called herself “Toby” in the 1930s and 40s, many parents bean to use it as a name for their daughters. Similarly, the famous writer George Elliot took a typically male name (“George”) for her own forename.

Vocabulary review

Facilitate: verb [ T ]

uk /f??s?l.?.te?t/ us /f??s?l.?.te?t/ formal

C1 to make something possible or easier


The new ramp will facilitate the entry of wheelchairs. ?????????????
The current structure does not facilitate efficient work flow. ??????????????????


Integrate: verb

uk /??n.t?.?re?t/ us /??n.t??.?re?t/

C1 [I or T] to mix with and joinsociety or a group of people, often changing to suittheir way of life, habits, and customs


It’s very difficult to integrate yourself into a society whose culture is so different from your own. ????????????????????????
Children are often very good at integrating into a new culture. ??????????????
Status symbol:
noun [ C ]

uk /?ste?.t?s ?s?m.b?l/ us /?ste?.t??s ?s?m.b?l/

a thing that people want to have because they think other people will admire them if they have it


Among young people, this brand of designer clothing is the ultimate status symbol. ??????????????????????

uk /?m?l.ti?k?l.t??r.?l/ us /?m?l.ti?k?l.t??.?l/

including people who have many different customs and beliefs


Britain is increasingly a multicultural society. ???????????????

uk /?k?z.m??p?l.?.t?n/ us /?k??z.m??p??.l?.t??n/ usually approving

C1 containing or having experience of people and things from many different parts of the world


New York is a highly cosmopolitan city. ????????????????

Bias: noun (preference)

C2 [C usually singular, U] the action of supporting or opposing a particularperson or thing in an unfair way, because of allowingpersonalopinions to influenceyourjudgment


The senator has accused the media of bias. ?????????????
Reporters must be impartial and not show political bias. ?????????????????
There was clearevidence of a strong bias against her. ?????????????????????

[C usually singular] the fact of preferring a particularsubject or thing


She showed a scientific bias at an early age. ????????????????
Avatar: noun
uk /?æv.?.t??r/us /?æv.?.t??r/

an image that represents you in onlinegames, chatrooms, etc. and that you can move around the screen


You can talk to other avatars with your words displayed in a cartoon bubble. ?????????????????????????????????????????????

uk /?p?s.t??.m?s/ us /?p??s.t??.m?s/ formal

happening after a person’s death

????? a posthumous award ???????

Universal: adjective

uk /?ju?.n??v??.s?l/ us /?ju?.n??v??.s?l/

B2 existing everywhere or involving everyone


a universal truth ????
Food, like sex, is a subject of almost universal interest. ??????????????????????
The new reforms have not met with universal approval within the party. ?????????????????????

Assimilate: verb, uk /??s?m.?.le?t/ us /??s?m.?.le?t/

to becomepart of a group, country, society, etc., or to make someone or something become part of a group, country, society, etc.


The European Union should remain flexible enough to assimilate more countries quickly. ??????????????????????????????
You shouldn’t expect immigrants to assimilate into an alien culture immediately. ??????????????????????


Criteria Anglophones use for choosing first names

Chinese names are invested with symbolism, meaning, and parent and grandparents’ hopes for the child, and perception of the child’s dominant attributes.In the Anglophone world names may be chosen for their sounds, meanings, and associations, and for a combination of these criteria.

  • Sounds

Some people choose names because they like the sound of a word,

For example, Prosperino, Eugene.

  • Meanings

For example, “Matthew” suggests man of peace, and “Jemima” suggests a woman of peace (as the word means “dove” in Hebrew)

  • Associations: celebrities, fictional characters, relatives and ancestors, places

One way a name might convey meaning is through the people or things the name is associated with, including other people who have the same name, or older relatives or ancestors who had the same name.

For example, a name may be associated with celebrities and famous public people, such as


“Harry”, associated with Prince Harry.

“Michelle” associated with Michelle Obama.

For example, with famous characters

“Portia”, from William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.


For example, with historical figures

Mary, associated with Mary Shelley (famous author), or Mary Wollenscraft (famous feminist).

Portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin

  • Some Anglophone people choose names because they honour or fondly remember an older relative, ancestor, or even themselves.

For example, my nephew Will is named after my grandfather Bill (their full forename is “William”). Historically, it was not unusual for eldest sons to be named after their fathers. This still happens, but the tradition may be less common these days. In Anglophone societies, having a middle name is common. For example, my middle name is “Ronald”, which is my maternal grandfather’s name. Middle names are often chosen to keep alive the name of a relative or ancestor.

  • Some people choose names because the word chosen expresses something creatively or ethically, sometimes playfully.

For example, the actor “River” Phoenix, the English celebrity “Peaches” Geldof.

Sometimes the thing being expressed is the love of a place, as is the case with Anglophone names like “Kenton” (which can mean Royal town), or “Tex” (a shortened version of the place name Texas).

Many forenames used by Anglophones are not actually English.

For example, my grandmothers (both English ladies) had foreign names: Eugénie (a French name) and Consueleta (a Spanish name). They were named in the 1920s. The English language practice of stealing words from other languages is historically longstanding. What’s more, these days many families are multicultural so foreign names in Anglophone societies are increasingly common.

  • Types of names might connote status and political leaning.

Some academics suggest that educated conservatives in the United States are more likely to choose popular common names. For example, John, Jeffrey, Anne. Educated liberals are more likely to choose unusual names, for example, Archimedes, Finnegan, Esme. Conservatives tend to like masculine sounding names such as those that start with Ks, Bs, Ds and Ts. For example, Kurt, Brendan, Daniel, Thomas. Educated Liberals are likely to choose more feminine sounding mnames such as Liam, Ely and Leila, softer sounding names such as those starting with L and ending in A, such as Ella, Malia and Sophia. Less educated families in the United States also tend to choose more unusual sounding names, sometimes with irregular spelling like “Andru” instead of “Andrew”.

  • Types of names might indicate religion

Many Anglophone names derives from religious tradition. “Matthew”, “Mark”, “Luke” and “John” are commonly chosen forenames in part because these are the names of the four authors of the Christian “new testament” bible. Similarly, common Anglophone names include some that are important to the Jewish faith, like “Aaron”, “Abbigail”, “Michael” and “Miriam”.

Group Discussion One

  1. (a) Working in your small groups, discuss the idea of Chinese people choosing an English name. Do you think it is a good idea? If so, can you explain why you think so? If not, can you explain why not? (b) Discuss the idea of Anglophone foreigners choosing a Chinese name when in China. Is it a good idea? Why/why not?
  2. Working in the English-to-Chinese direction, find Chinese names for the three famous people on the list I have given you. Choose names for them and explain your reasoning.


Chinese people choosing English names

For Chinese people, the choice of an English name might involve a mix of Chinese and English reasoning based on the traditions of both countries.

  • A Chinese person might like to find an English name that resembles the sound of their Chinese name (chose a name that is phonologically similar).

For example, my wife “Jian” is called “Jean” in English; a student called “Lin” might use the name Lynn.

  • A Chinese person might seek an English name that evokes the meaning of their Chinese name.

For example,  a woman named ? (“Yuè”, moon) chose the name “Selena” who was the Roman goddess of the moon.

  • These days many Chinese people choose non-standard names, in line with expressing themselves creatively, ethically, or politically.

There are issues to think about in relation to this: How will the name seem to other people (including other children)? Will it allow the person to maintain respect (or at least not be disrespected)?

For example, one of my nephews is called “London” (actually first name “London” and middle name “Wolf”). He is named for a city and a wild animal. Other children might find his name interesting or funny.

  • Many Anglophone names are shortened in everyday conversation, so when Chinese people choose a first name they might want to consider whether they like the short version.

To use the examples of my nephews again, “William” becomes “Will” or “Bill”. Names “Abigail” become “Abi, or Abby”, and names like “Edward” become “Ed” or Ted”. So when  choosing an English name you might think of the shortened version that people often use in everyday speech as that is what people are more likely to actually call you.

  • Similarly, many names are given a friendly sound in everyday use by the adding of a “y” at the end. So Chinese people choosing an English name might want to consider whether they like the friendly version.

For example, my name is “Matthew”. It is normally shortened to “Matt”. But some of my family and friends like to call me “Matty”. My nephew William could find himself called “Billy” or “Willy” (the shortened version of his name + y). Actually the last version of his name is a slightly rude/obscene word in English, so he wouldn’t want his schoolmates to call him that.

  • Little names and nicknames

So far we’re talking about formal names that might become less formal in everyday use, by shortening or softening. But there are also Chinese and English traditions that are just informal, and ideally (but not always) friendly. Well, Chinese little names are always friendly (the extra name a parent might affectionately given a child, like Dong Dong or Xiao Hong etc). Nicknames are made up names that people give each other. In Anglophone culture these are sometimes intended to be funny and affectionate and are based on observation of a persons traits, character, behaviour or fate. Sometimes, however, they are intended to make fun of a person, and (for children) may be a form of verbal bullying.

Examples include opposites like “Tiny” for a very large man; “Blue” for a red headed man (because a “blue” is a fight, and red headed people are thought of as liking a fight).

Play the naming game (play nicely!)

  1. (a). Tell each other your Chinese first names, and choose three possible names for each other. Explain the reasons for choosing the names you chose. (b) Compare the new name to the one you chose for yourselves if you already have an English name. Which one is better? Why?
  2. Imagine you are forming a musical band (it could be a boy band, a girl group, and could be of any type). Choose the type of band you will be and decide on a name for the band. Be ready to explain the reason(s) for your choice.
  3. Can you think of three unusual English-language names of famous people? Tell each other what you think of the names.
  4. What are your favourite English names? Can you say why? What are your favourite Chinese names? Can you say why?




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