Vol. 71 No. 2 (2023): NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics

Adopting French Names as Identity Markers among Second Foreign Language (L3) Learners in China

Ying Qi Wu
Hebei Normal University for Nationalities
Shan Shan Li
Hebei Normal University for Nationalities

Published 2023-06-08


  • anthroponymy,
  • French,
  • identity,
  • Chinese students,
  • second foreign language,
  • multilingualism
  • ...More


Using foreign names has become common practice for Chinese students who are learning a foreign language to develop a special identity in multilingual contexts. French is one of the most studied foreign languages in China. Nevertheless, little attention has been paid to the practices learners follow when adopting French names as their identity markers. The current study addresses this gap by investigating twenty-nine French names adopted by Chinese university students who are learning French as the second foreign language (L3) in a Chinese university. Drawing on data collected through interviews, the motivations, and features behind the respondents’ name choices were examined. The qualitative and quantitative analyses show that the practice of adopting French names for these L3 students was primarily motivated by phonetic features and the study participants’ positive associations. The L3 learners  deliberately selected a French name to create a multilingual and multicultural identity for themselves. The pedagogical implications regarding teachers’ development of  cultural instruction materials as well as teachers’ potential influence on French language instruction overall are also discussed.


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