I noticed the names of all my colleagues in Hong Kong had a Western first name, two initials, and then a Chinese last name. I asked what this meant and I received an interesting explanation:
People in Hong Kong are given Chinese names when they are born, and only begin to use Western names later in life. Usually at some point in high school, they will choose a Western name to use when in contact with Westerners. So my colleage Joseph wasn't born with the name Joseph. He chose it. Once the Western name has been chosen, one can opt to include it on one's ID card too, but it can always be changed later. The two initials between the Western first name and the Chinese last name are a clue to the actual Chinese name. Each letter represents a corresponding symbol in the Chinese language, and the two symbols together form the Chinese name.
One of the girls I met last night showed me how to write my name, Michael, in Chinese. If I heard it correctly, the name in Chinese sounds something like MY-CO -- one Chinese symbol for each syllable. It's not perfect, but at least it's understandable.
Chinese people have an advantage in that they've already learned the really difficult language. I think English must be comparatively easy to learn.
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