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Dec 26, 2007

So, What is the Pictograph for "Asian-American" Family?


As I understand it: For the traditional Asian, family is everything.  For the traditional Asian's child-in-America, family is the beginning of everything.  As I have yet to understand: which mindset has the greater challenge for assimilating in these United States?


"Family" in Chinese courtesy of ChineseNames.org -- free translations of names and many other words from English to Chinese.

03:57 PM in Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink


I'm amazed that chinesenames.org has "Vilas" in their dictionary. Maybe it's common enough in India to warrant translation (it's coincidentally common in India, but that's not how I got the name).

Posted by: Joseph H. Vilas | Dec 26, 2007 4:11:13 PM

Oh Phil. Can I hope that neither starting point is a challenge to assimilation? If by assimilation is meant the abandonment of one's unique foundational bedrock in favor of some vanilla "whatever, man," then eschew it. We will never know peace until we get rid of the whole "melting pot" ideology that only serves as foil for militant diversity. What is the proper metaphor for that Utopian creation where colors or flavors or people mix in harmonious cacophony, blended but never losing differentiated and unique (and I don't consider that redundant--cigarettes in a pack are differentiated and individual, but not unique)individuality? That is an "assimilation" I can get behind.

Posted by: Doc | Dec 26, 2007 11:26:11 PM

Doc -- I'm not sure I accurately understand your question (gee, the word "challenge" suddenly has many more meanings than I remember). But here's another way of saying it: "which of these generations will have the easiest time relating with the great body of America who -- on average, at least -- doesn't consider 'family' in quite the same way."

Posted by: Phil | Dec 27, 2007 12:46:07 AM

Phil, I hope I didn't offend. I don't mean to belittle or unnecessarily complicate your own question. I understand it. My wish, which I clearly did a poor job of expressing, is that the special value accorded to family in Asian culture would present no challenges to assimilation. I suppose I find the dilution of that value implied by the distinct descriptions of the "traditional Asian" and "the traditional Asian's child-in-America" as somewhat sad. I merely meant to wonder aloud if it couldn't be possible, desirable even, to assimilate without necessarily letting go. It's the loss implied in "assimilation" that I mourn. No more. I'm not sure I was even asking a question really. Just expressing a sadness. Sorry.

Posted by: Doc | Dec 27, 2007 2:00:16 AM

Doc -- no need to apologize for any perceived slight, because there wasn't any!

Regarding these thoughts from you: "I merely meant to wonder aloud if it couldn't be possible, desirable even, to assimilate without necessarily letting go." In some forms, I've wondered this, myself. I'll let you know when I have any answers. But don't stay up waiting...

[Related: On Election Night, 2000, I stated around midnight that I intended to stay up until the election results were final. But around 1:30 a.m. I figured that meant I'd have to stay up all night, so I said "ferget it -- I'll find out tomorrow." Hah.]

Posted by: Phil | Dec 27, 2007 2:25:59 AM

@Joseph H. Vilas: My knowledge of Chinese is limited--Melissa and I took a ten-week class, which empowered me to say, when we were visiting relatives in Xiamen, "Sorry, I don't speak Mandarin." (The shop clerk replied, in English, "I know!") But, based on what I just saw at chinesenames.org, I would not rely on it for translations of a Western name into Chinese. Its function seems to be a rough sounding out of Western names using Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters. I only know a few dozen Chinese characters, so I can't say how good a job the site's designers have done of avoiding words with insulting connotations.

My point, though, is that the site acts as if it's authoritative, but it's not. There's no single "translation" of any Western name into Chinese. If you or I were going to spend time in China, we'd probably compose a name for ourselves that followed the standard for Chinese names (a [usually] one-character surname, then [usually] two characters of given name) and had positive connotations. If Chinese people cared about our Western names, we'd say it in English and show it to them in Latin characters. The Western alphabet is well-known in Chinese-speaking countries; a common way of typing Chinese on computers involves typing in the pronunciation of the character in Western characters and then letting the computer propose characters pronounced that way until you find the one you want.

Posted by: Brian Rice | Jan 6, 2008 12:27:22 PM