This post is for foreigners who want to choose an english name for themselves. It's not really meant for mothers who are looking for a name for their baby. :) I have met many foreigners, especially chinese, who choose inappropriate, or out-dated names for themselves, so I thought this post might be helpful.
I want to start by saying that the name you choose will have a great effect on how english speaking people view you. My husband has a chinese name that isn't very good. In some ways it's okay, because when chinese hear his name, they automatically know that he isn't chinese. His name just doesn't sound very good to the chinese ear. It's an awkward name. On the other hand, mine seems to be one that is acceptable, so people have told me that they like it. We didn't choose our names. We had chinese teachers that chose our names for us. But we have used them so long, and have at times had name chops made, so we have kept them. But if we had it to do over again, my husband might have chosen a different name. So think carefully before you choose a name.
1. Do not choose a descriptive word for you name.
I met a chinese guy at the store who told me his english name is "Crazy". Sorry sir, but that sounds crazy. Likewise, do not choose a name that is an inanimate object such as "Chair", or an animal name. I had a girl in my english class once who was named "Caterpillar". Yes, caterpillars are cute bugs, but if you tell someone that is your name, they will either think you are weird, or very childish.
2. Do not choose the name of a celebrity
My husband had an english class student who said his name was "Rambo". Rambo is a fictional character. You will come across as being a little strange if you choose a name like that. Similarly, do not choose names like "Pocahontas", "Cinderella", or "Batman". Those aren't names used by professionals.
3. Do choose an english name.
While I respect you wanting to use your native language name, you must remember that english speaking people will have difficulty remembering it. They will feel more of a connection to you if you have an english name. Not to belittle anyone, but I want to share something about how they name animals in the animal shelters. They want people to feel a connection to the animals so that they will adopt them. So instead of giving them names like "Spot", or "Happy", they give them names like "Freddy", and "Annie". I think the same goes for non-native english speakers. People will remember your name easier, and will connect with you better if you have an english name.
4. Do your homework, and choose a modern name.
I have met many people who have chosen out-dated english names. While they are legitimate, previously well-used english names, they sound weird to people today. You can do an internet search of the most popular baby names and get a list of names that would be more modern and acceptable. I don't mean to offend anyone, but the following is a list of names that sound out-dated to the native english speaker.
Clarence, Chester, Dwight, Buford, Philbert, Hubert, Elmer, Percy, Horace, Otis, Alfred, Arnold, Arthur, Edmund, Neville, Lionel
Eunice, Beatrice, Mildred, Agnes, Gertrude, Myrtle, Mabel, Ethel, Millicent, Gladys, Esmerelda, Phoebe,Thelma, Constance, Francis, Winifred
5. Choose a name that sounds like your name
It isn't always possible, but if there is a name that sounds like yours, that is the best choice. You could also choose a name that has the same beginning sound. This helps you to recognize your name when people say it. For example, I had a chinese friend whose name was Ruan Rei (I'm not including his last name). I suggested he either choose the name Ron, or Ray. Both are acceptable english names, and both sound like his chinese name.
I also had a friend named Ai Chu, which in chinese means Pearl. She chose Pearl as her name, and it was actually a good name for her, even though it isn't particularly modern. So if your name has a meaning, you might consider using the translation, as long as it is a legitimate english name.
6. Simplicity and Creativity
When we were naming our children, my husband revealed to me that in the male world, simple names are better. Boys get made fun of if their names are too ornate. It's better for a boy to be called "Bob", than to be called a lengthy strange name like "Hercules". Conversely, girls are admired by other girls if they have more creative names. Instead of choosing a simple name like "Ann", or "Mary", girls are more admired by other girls if they have beautiful, creative names like "Keira", or "Kristen". (shout out to my nieces :)
7. My recommendations
And here, for your viewing pleasure, are some names that I would recommend.
Chris, Alex, David, Sam, Daniel, Kyle, Luke, Steven, Adam, Robert, Jack, Jacob, Ryan, Andrew, Tyler, Brandon, Matthew, Michael
Angela, Emma, Sarah, Natalie, Claire, Alyssa, Catherine, Emily, Aubrey, Kristen, Kylie, Keira, Kimberly
Stay tuned. Perhaps I'll write a post about how to name your animal. ;)