At least Han Han doesn’t have this problem

I’ll venture to guess that most readers of this blog have been in a position to help polish up the English language resume / CV of someone with a Chinese name, either that of a friend or your own.

The question of the day is: how, then, have you presented the name at the top of the document?

Let’s leave aside the easy cases, where, say, the Chinese person has taken a foreign first name. Obviously Esmeralda Wang isn’t going to confuse anyone. But what about, say, 李凡. Do we present him as

  • Li Fan
  • Li, Fan
  • Fan Li
  • or, as Sinoglot’s Sima half-jokingly suggested, spell it out by adding a line below the name saying [surname: Li, given name: Fan)

Maybe there are more creative solutions.

And just to muck things up, let’s remember that this resume might be presented for employment in China, or in a foreign country.

I think the proper answer should account for what would be clear to “most” people. The trouble is, I’m not at all clear on what that is!

13 responses to “At least Han Han doesn’t have this problem”

  1. Lina says:

    LI Fan. Putting the family name in upper case is not uncommon in EU.

    • Karan says:

      Yeah, I’ve definitely seen a lot of both Chinese and Japanese people do this. Regardless of order, last name in all caps.

  2. Brendan says:

    I’ve also seen the surname given in caps, regardless of order: “Fan LI” or “LI Fan” would both be acceptable. Not uncommon for Japanese names, as well.

  3. Steve (Syz) says:

    All caps — well…

    Lina, it’s very helpful to know that all-caps is used in Europe. Add to that Karan & Brendan noting that Japan uses it too and I guess I’ll run with it.

    I think the reason I’ve been shying away from it is that, from my hazy recollections of life in the US, I don’t think it’s used. And if not, then I wonder if all-caps is going to be meaningful to people who haven’t been exposed to the capitalizing tradition.

    No one thinks actual order would make a difference then?

    I still have visions of the potential employer thinking his first name is Ll [i.e. two Ls]…

    • Peter says:

      Serif font…

      • Steve (Syz) says:

        good idea. somehow that reminds me of early character encounters when I thought 农 was a serif font version of 衣…

    • I’ve had people ask me why family names are given all in caps but mostly they seem to pick it up by textual context.

    • The only place I have ever seen the all-caps surname in a US source was in the CIA World Factbook (which, interestingly, also uses it to single out the paternal surname of Spanish-speaking leaders.*) I picked it up by context, though I did have pre-existing knowledge of the cultures involved.

      The biggest problem is the unknown quantity of what convention the employer will default to. I think most educated Americans know that Chinese surnames come first, but they are flipped to Western style so often in recordkeeping that it’s hard to know which one they will take as the assumed order. ALL CAPS seems like the only unambiguous solution to me.

      *In case people don’t know, in Hispanophone cultures, you typically inherit both parents’ surnames, though the paternal one is the one that’s usually used when referring to someone by surname alone.

      • Steve (Syz) says:

        George, that’s a great example. The all caps thing for spanish names would actually be pretty useful, considering how many bookstores still have Gabriel GARCIA Marquez located in the Ms

        • Oddly enough, IME Gabriel García Marquez is actually pretty much never referred to as “García”. He is always “García Márquez” or even just “Márquez”. García is a very common surname that is shared by a couple other famous authors. Plus, the fact that he was raised by his maternal grandfather may have something to do with it.

          • Steve (Syz) says:

            i knew he was often referred to as garcia-marquez, but i’d always thought marquez alone was just an error of the spanish ignorati. apparently it might have some justification then? interesting. thanks

  4. Brendan says:

    I always stick to Surname, Given Name unless the person in question has got another preference — so in this case, LI Fan. The two-Ls thing seems an unlikely mistake for people to make unless there are a lot more Chinese people with Welsh names out there than I think there are.

    The all-capital thing is odd in the US, but it is used in academia — and I suspect that it will probably become familiar to e.g. college admissions committees soon, if it isn’t already. And if there’s any text in the resume/personal statement/letters of recommendation in which you can refer to the person in question as “Mr./Ms. Li,” you can always cover your bases there.

    • Steve (Syz) says:

      Yeah, the LL thing was a bit out there

      Anyway, thanks. I’m sold on all caps as the wave of the future, personal misgivings about aesthetics be damned.

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