If you grew up during the 90s, like many of us did, you probably know of the Japanese hit TV cartoon series Pokémon. Originally adopted from the video game of the same name (back in the days of the Nintendo Gameboy), both the TV series and the video games became a huge success around the world, not just in Asia. They further spawned movies and merchandise (card games, toys, etc.) and are still part of beloved culture icons for many people East and West.
As a special blog post, we decided to give you some of the names appearing in the Pokémon world, so that you can talk to and understand the hardcore Chinese fans of the series. You’re welcome!
To generally summarize the story, Pokémon (神奇宝贝 shénqí bǎobèi, lit. “Magical Darlings” OR based on the video game name 口袋妖怪 kǒudài yāoguài, lit. “Pocket Monsters”) deals with the life of Ash Ketchum (小智 Xiǎo Zhì, lit. “Little Wisdom”) and his pet Pokémon monster Pikachu (皮卡丘 Píkǎqiū) as they travel the world, filled with Pokémon monsters of different kinds, and fight in different training gyms, with the ultimate aim being that Ash becomes a Pokémon Master! On the way, they are joined by best friends Misty (小霞 Xiǎo Xiá, lit. “Little Rosy Cloud”) and Brock (小刚 Xiǎo Gāng, lit. “Little Strong”), each with their own type of Pokémon (typically, Misty uses water based Pokémon while Brock uses Stone based ones).
On their way, they are not only hindered by different types of wild Pokémon and the various gym masters around the Pokémon world, but also by a team of professional Pokémon thieves, called Team Rocket (火箭队 huǒjiàn duì). The evil team is mostly portrayed in the guise of the girl-boy duo Jesse and James, with their own evil cat-like Pokémon, Meowth (喵喵 miāomiāo).
On their travels, Ash and the gang are joined by new Pokémon friends who help them on their way, such as the grass-type frog-like Bulbasaur (妙蛙种子 miàowā zhǒngzi, lit. “Wonderful Frog Seed”), the fire-type dragon-like Charmander (小火龙 xiǎo huǒlóng, lit. “Little Fire Dragon”) and the water-type turtle-like Squirtle (杰尼龟 jiéní guī, lit. “Zeni Turtle”*).
*Zeni is a Japanese word to refer to Gold or Golden, and the Chinese name for Squirtle was adopted based on the same sound (杰尼 sounds like Zeni)
Contact us if you want to learn more Chinese than just Pokemon names!
Written by Alex Krasnov, LTL Student Advisor