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To Chinese, names are not mere codes
By Chua Chim Kang
  

      If a name is a mere code, the ease of use should be the key in deciding a suitable choice. Picking one that is easy to remember, sounds right, helps facilitate communication at social gatherings and others to recall you will be the factors to consider. (来源:英语麦当劳 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

  But Chinese names invariably connote a long list of ideas and expectations, some even carry the parents’ memory of, and metaphor for, life. A name not only conveys a basic attitude and character, but can also be a value statement for one to succeed in life and make a name for himself.

  In short, it can turn out to be a tremendous burden. This is why some Chinese parents are happy to do away with the trouble of giving their children Chinese names.

  A recent survey by The Straits Times showed that a growing number of children have only English names. The reasons behind the trend are worth examining.

  The pronunciation of Chinese names can be tricky - much like the way Chinese find it tough to distinguish and remember the names of their Malay or Indian friends. A Chinese name, which strings together two or three different words that may not be related can be a tongue-twister for foreigners or friends from other ethnic groups.

  Still, if Chinese resort to some over-used English names for the sake of convenience, we are not doing justice to our tradition.

  While we have grown out of the parochial view of absolute obedience to parents, we still hold our ancestors and elders in high regard. The society and family remain significant in terms of exercising some restrictions over us and providing us a sense of continuity - and Chinese names are the symbols and manifestation of such cultural values.

  Ancient Chinese were rather particular about names. They could be known by more than one name and nicknames as well. Naming was truly a complicated process then.

  But if new generations of parents find even two or three Chinese words troublesome, something must have gone wrong in the way they perceive our cultural identity. Other Chinese communities will probably be puzzled by the casual way Chinese Singaporeans treat Chinese names.

   When parents do not even insist on maintaining this tradition and are happy to get rid of Chinese names for their children for whatever reasons, what will we have left in a fast-changing consumer society?

  The strong desire to drop Chinese names is probably unrelated to the mentality in the past to fawn over things foreign. The dominance of the English language in business and daily life has likely caused some Chinese to look down on the status of the Chinese language.

  They have also failed to see the link between culture and language. They believe that a perfect command of the English language equals a good understanding of the Western culture. They are even convinced that the English language is all that is needed to survive and thrive. To them, Singapore is only a base and they will have nothing to do whatsoever with Chinese culture, history and tradition.

  Some find Chinese names old-fashioned and outdated. In fact, to someone who is IT-savvy and recognises only English letters and numbers on a computer, not having a Chinese name is no big deal.

   I believe this is the way some people look at the matter. Furthermore, for various reasons, the young find learning the Chinese language an unpleasant task. When they become parents, they would be very reluctant emotionally to give their children Chinese names which have little practical value in real life.

  The more fundamental reason is that one has nothing to lose by not having a Chinese name. And for many, material gain is the basis by which things are judged and measured. Issues such as culture, tradition and identity, which are abstract, are strange and far-fetched and may even evoke in them a sense of fear and resistance.

  Not to give a child a Chinese name is a simple act that speaks volumes.

  (The writer is a correspondent with the Political Desk, Lianhe Zaobao. Translated by Yap Gee Poh)
 (双语观点)

华人姓名与文化认同
● 蔡深江

  如果名字只是一个代号,使用上的方便与否就成了最重要的考量。取一个容易记,符合整体感觉的名字,以便能在社交场合与人沟通,进出别人记忆的门窗,是命名的出发点。

 
孩童的华文名附带一长串的期待和意义?
 

  偏偏华文名老爱附带一长串的期待和意义,甚至承载了父母看待生命的某种隐喻和记忆,名字不但是一种人格的基本态度,还可能引伸成为安身立命的价值,变成一个沉重的负担。对一些华人来说,不为孩子取华文名,反而省去不少麻烦。

  据《海峡时报》的一项调查,越来越多本地孩童仅用洋名,而省略了华文名字,相信这样的趋势有其形成的背景。

  正如我们不容易辨别或记牢马来和印度同胞的名字,华文名字的发音也让人费神记忆,特别是对外国人和异族朋友,要把两三个只有音符而没有关联、意义的单字拼凑起来,并不容易。

  反过来说,如果华人只取一个熟口熟面的洋名,图方便顺手,那么,也的确太小觑自己的传统了。

  虽然我们在形式上已经超越身体发肤受之父母的狭隘观念,然而,在精神上,祖先长辈的地位还是高高在上的,社会和家庭结构对我们而言,还是有某种约束与传承的意义,而名字正是此一精神价值的延续和象征。

  过去华人讲究名、字、号等不同称呼,的确相当复杂。可是,如果连简单直接的三两个字也嫌麻烦累赘的话,新一代父母对文化的认同肯定出了偏差,其他华人社会相信也不会谅解本地华人处理姓名的草率方式。

  倘若父母连这一点微弱的传承都不再坚持,以任何理由把华文名字也从孩子身上根除,在一个快速消化和消费的时代,剩下的会是什么呢?

  急于丢弃自己姓名的现象相信和过去崇洋媚外的想法没有关系。也许是英语在商业和实用价值的优势,使部分华人在观念上矮化了华文的地位,也分不清文化和语文的认同关系。他们以为口操标准英语就等同了解了西方文化,甚至在情感上也只以新加坡为基地,和华族文化、历史、传统划清界线,认定英语能够完全应付个人的生活和生存需要。

  华文名字对某些人来说,也许是老土和保守外衣。对一个在电脑上只以字母和数字为代号的新资讯公民来说,有没有华文名真的不是那么重要。

  这样的想法相信应该是存在的。加上部分年轻一代因种种因素,把学习华文也视为苦差,为下一代取华文名这类的事,对他们而言,情感上很不情愿,现实生活也觉得没有必要。最根本的是,不取华文名没有任何实质上的损失,而现实的利害关系,正是一部分人赖以判断事物的基础。连带的,抽象的文化、传统、认同等课题,就变得陌生而遥远,甚至产生一种莫明的恐惧排斥心态。

  少为孩子取一个华文名,看似简单,其实,别有用心。

  ·作者是《联合早报》政治组执行级记者

 
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