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What’s in a Chinese company name?

When you enter the Chinese market, you company’s Chinese name should immediately give a good impression that is memorable, culturally aware, and full of positive associations. Because of the well-known language and cultural differences, and the character-based system of writing in China, a lot of thought is needed to come up with something that meets this criteria.

Sometimes, creating a Chinese version of your company’s name is a straightforward task, as in the case with Apple, who simply named themselves ‘apple’ in Chinese: 苹果 (Pingguo). But it isn’t often this simple.

Words and meanings

Your company’s name may rely on associations or references which won’t be understood by non-native speakers of your language, so a literal translation into Chinese doesn’t always make sense. It is also important to avoid the pitfalls of coming up with a Chinese name that –unbeknownst to you- is a homonym of something else, or has associations with something negative in Chinese.

Having a name with positive associations is obviously better than one with negative of even neutral ones. However, even once this point has been established, other questions remain, such as: exactly how positive is it in Chinese? Is it subtle, striking or somewhere in between? Does it match the branding of your company? And what other nuances might it convey to native Mandarin speakers?

Having character

Having your company name sound similar in both languages can be a positive thing, but it isn’t always possible. One company that successfully did this is Coca Cola, whose Chinese name (可口可乐 Kekoukele) not only sounds like their English name, but also uses the characters for delicious (可口) and amusing (可乐). Similarly, MacDonalds’ Chinese name (麦当劳 Maidanglao) both sounds like ‘Macdonalds’ and contains the characters also used to make up wheat (麦) and work (劳), thereby giving it positive associations.

Another well-known example of a Western company successfully translating its name into Chinese is the French supermarket Carrefour. They named themselves ‘家乐福’ (Jialefu), which sounds not unlike the pronunciation of their original name, and uses three characters that give Chinese speakers positive and relevant associations: 家(home/family) 乐(joyful) and 福 (good fortune/luck).

Chinese characters have associations that Latin letters don’t contain, so whatever Chinese name you choose for your company will have at least some associations. It is up to you to make sure that these are positive ones!

How Lan-bridge can help you

Our translators can help you find the right Chinese name for your company. After reading through your native language marketing material and notes, they can create a selection of suitable choices alongside explanations of how and why they came up with each of them. The sound, characters, and associations for the names will be clearly detailed, and our in-house team can even design a logo for you. Our experience and familiarity with all industries in the Chinese market means that we are well placed help you ensure that your entry into China gets off to a great start. 

To find out more about this service, get in touch.


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