English Name Transition from Taiwan to the United States: A Case Study of Taiwanese International Students

Yi-An Jason Chen


The way in which Taiwanese students use English names to construct their identities in a new sociocultural setting has received minimal scholarly attention. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 10 Taiwanese international students, I focused on how the use of ethnic names and English names is structured through social interaction and cultural context at an American university. The results suggest that the acquisition of an English name is not a personal choice, but an authoritative order that originates from private English education in Taiwan. Even though the choice of ethnic and English names in the United States is often constrained by linguistic factors, the use of English names by Taiwanese international students not only discloses their attitudes toward English name adoption, but also greatly influences their identity and acculturation.



Taiwanese International Students, English Names, Ethnic Names, Identity, English Education, Acculturation

Full Text:



Burke, R. (2001). Western names in the classroom: An issue for the ESL profession. TESOL in Context, 11(1), 21-23.

Campbell, L. (1999). Historical linguistics: An introduction. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chen, Y. (2013). A study on Taiwanese international students and Taiwanese American students: The interface between naming and identity (Master’s Thesis). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 1533008)

Christensen, T. J. (2002). The contemporary security dilemma: Deterring a Taiwan conflict. The Washington Quarterly, 25(4), 5-21. http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/016366002760252509

Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

Edwards, R. (2006). What’s in a name? Chinese learners and the practice of adopting ‘English’ names. Language, Culture, and Curriculum, 19(1), 90-103. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07908310608668756

Esterberg, K. G. (2002). Qualitative methods in social research. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Gao, Y., Xiu, L., & Kuang, W. (2010). “I want to be a captain of my own heart”—English names and identity construction by English majors in a comprehensive university. Chinese Journal of Applied Linguistics, 33(2), 3-17.

Hall, S. (2003). Cultural identity and diaspora. In J. E. Braziel, & A. Mannur (Eds.), Theorizing diaspora: A reader (pp. 233-246). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Heffernan, K. (2010). English name use by East Asians in Canada: Linguistic pragmatics or cultural identity? Names: A Journal of Onomastics, 58(1), 24-36.

Ho, E. S. (2009). Educational leadership for parental involvement in an Asian context: Insights from Bourdieu’s theory of practice. The School Community Journal, 19(2), 101-122.

Institute of International Education. (2011a). Opendoors 2011 “fast facts”. Retrieved from http://www.iie.org/~/media/Files/Corporate/Open-Doors/Fast-Facts/Fast%20Facts%202011.pdf.

Institute of International Education. (2011b). International student enrollment increased by 5 percent in 2010/11. Retrieved from http://www.iie.org/Who-We-Are/News-and-Events/Press-Center/Press-Releases/2011/2011-11-14-Open-Doors-International-Students.

Kim, T. (2007). The dynamics of ethnic name maintenance and change: Cases of Korean ESL immigrants in Toronto. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 28(2), 117-133. http://dx.doi.org/10.2167/jmmd419.1

King, N., & Horrocks, C. (2010). Interviews in qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2008). Cultural globalization and language education. New Haven: Yale University Press.

LeCompte, M. D., & Schensul, J. J. (1999). Analyzing and interpreting ethnographic data. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

Li, D. C. S. (1997). Borrowed identity: Signaling involvement with a Western name. Journal of Pragmatics, 28(4), 489-513. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(97)00032-5

Power, J. (2008). Japanese names. The Indexer, 26(2), C4: 2-6.

Tajfel, H. (1978). Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations. London: Academic Press.

Thomas, D. R. (2006). A general inductive approach for analyzing qualitative evaluation data. American Journal of Evaluation, 27(2), 237-246. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1098214005283748

Thompson, R. (2006). Bilingual, bicultural, and binominal identities: Personal name investment and the imagination in the lives of Korean Americans. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 5(3), 179-208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15327701jlie0503_1

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.5n.4p.58


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2020 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.