Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China


Do you try to learn proper nouns?

Recommended Posts


Up to now, I have only bothered to learn the names of important/nearby countries, Chinese cities, and maybe a handful of foreign brands.

The way I have seen it, is that they are almost as hard to commit to memory as a Chengyu. And if someone is actually interested in, say "Bill Gates", they will likely know what his name sounds like in English.

To go further, and to be honest, when reading a Chinese article, I may not even attempt to read some proper nouns. Like, if the word is 布鲁克林 I might just read it as "布..." -- as long as there are no other place names beginning with 布, and I know what place it is actually referring to, it doesn't affect my reading comprehension.

I got into that habit because it is common to need to do that with Chinese given names of course. 


But is this a mistake?

Even if people may understand me saying "Bill Gates" I will probably not notice or understand if I overhear 比尔盖茨. And is it the case that transliterations follow learnable rules?   

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.


 I wouldn't go out of my way to learn it or put it into flash card deck unless that proper noun has some personal significance . For example if a topic like "what do you like to read " comes up with a Chinese  friend I like to know the names of my favourite authors like Steinbeck (斯坦贝克) or Haruki Murakami (村上春树) , without having the need to fish put my phone everytime to check.


Also if I read I do check the dictionary to see what the proper name  is in English (although not often possible) as no doubt it will come up several times later on. (Further there is a element of curiosity to it)


However I would suggest trying to preempt proper nouns (like geographical names) is a bad idea given the scope. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's like vocabulary in general: you can't possibly learn every word or phrase so you have to make some choices based on what you not me find yourself talking or reading about.


Keep in mind though that there is at least one Chinese word for everyplace, sometimes more, and Chinese speakers always think in terms of the Chinese word. Just throwing in the English name usually won't get you far. So if you want to bring Saskatchewan into the conversation, don't expect to be understood unless you use 萨斯喀彻温.  Or 沙斯卡寸旺. Or maybe 沙斯卡寸旺. Yes, it can get complicated.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...