By Tom Snee for Iowa Now
That's why the Tippie College of Business has begun offering a variety of programs focused on bridging the cultures, including a recent workshop to teach faculty and staff how to properly pronounce Chinese names. And not a moment too soon. This year, Tippie has 497 international students, 15 times more than the 34 international students enrolled in 2005; 412 of them are from China.
The workshops were attended by about 50 faculty, staff, and administrators and were conducted by Xi Ma, a program associate in the UI Confucius Institute in International Programs.
“When you see a Chinese name and you don’t understand Chinese, you have no idea how to pronounce the letters, even if they’re in English,” says Ma. For instance, x, which for those used to reading the Roman alphabet could be pronounced“eks”as in X-ray or even “z” as in xylophone is pronounced closer to “she” in Chinese. And “i” is pronounced “ee” in Chinese.
“Tone is very important, and subtlety of pronunciation is important,” acknowledges Ma, who was trained as a Chinese-English translator and now works as a foreign language instructor. “It’s especially difficult with a person’s name because there’s nothing that tells you how to pronounce the tones, except to ask the person about his or her name in Chinese characters.”
In order to get those syllables and tones right, Westerners might have to twist their mouths into unfamiliar shapes.
To read the full article and hear Xi Ma demonstrate the correct pronunciation of 10 Chinese names, visit Iowa Now.