"I'm Ming Zhang. What is your name?"
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I'm just a beginner so I'm having trouble understanding when "叫" for "called" is needed and when it's not. Could someone help? For example you need it here, but I didn't need it when translating "What is your last name"? It'd be useful if someone could explain this to me. Thanks!
As far as I can tell, 叫 is used for "called" when talking about a full name, such as in the sentence “我叫张明”, which means "I am called Ming Zhang", or "My name is Ming Zhang". When you are only talking about your or somebody else's last name, 叫 is not needed, such as in the sentence "我姓张“, which means "My last name is Zhang".
According to the lesson accompaniment, "呢 ne is placed at the end of a sentence to ask “how about…?/what about…?”. It is normally used as a return sentence after being asked the same question."
The context of this question doesn't indicate whether you are telling your name because someone asked or because you are initiating the introduction so technically you wouldn't necessarily be returning the question.
I don't think "你呢" is accurate here because the English sentence explicitly says "what is your name".
However, you don't have to be returning a question posed by the other person to use "你呢". Just as, in English, "I'm Zhang Ming" could be followed by "and you?", the Chinese "我叫张明" could be followed by "你呢". I.e., the speaker describes himself and then prompts the listener to respond in kind, whether or not he was asked a question first.
It's not a mere question marker like the particles "吗" and "呢", but with a slight expansion of the meaning of "question marker", the principle still holds to some extent.
"你叫什么名字" is literally "you are called what name". This is a common structure in which to find "什么". You'll see it, for example, in sentences that translate literally to "you like to eat what dishes (kinds of food)?" ("你爱吃什么菜？"), "you can speak what languages?" ("你会说什么语言？"), etc.
In sentences such as these that use "什么 + noun", if you think of this entire phrase as the "question marker", then it can still be said that the "question marker" often comes at the end, but this expands the meaning of the term quite a bit.
"什么" itself can also appear at the end, for example in sentences that translate literally to "they want what?" ("他们要什么？"), "he says what?" ("他说什么？"), etc. On that note, an alternative way of asking someone's name is "你的名字是什么？" ("your name is what?"), which does have "什么" right at the end.
However, not all questions in Chinese have a question word or phrase at the end. For example, "为什么", or "why", comes before the verb, and "什么样的..." or "what kind of..." can also come before the verb.
Just curious, conversationally I have heard 你 叫 什 么 名 字？ And 你 名 字 叫 什 么 ？
It did not accept the second option. Is this because it is incorrect to say this grammatically or another reason? I'm a Taiwanese American who can speak some Mandarin but I would like to improve. Also I do not know how to write Chinese so thought this might be a way to learn.
There's no way to know for sure, but 明 is a common name, whereas I imagine no one's name is 名.
But the important part is really the rest of the sentence(s), so you just have to memorize a couple of extra characters to get past this question. Fortunately they're common ones.
I am also a complete beginner and found it extremely challenging at first. However I kept going and it is falling into place slowly. This reversing of names though is confusing and I wish they would explain why someone would say their name in one order and write it in another. Good luck, keep going.
Just note that it's not that there's a difference between the spoken order and the written order. It's that there's a difference between the Chinese order and the English order. "张" is the family name and comes first in Chinese, but when speaking English, and especially when living in an English environment or context, people will often adopt the English convention and put the family name last.
On the other hand, when hearing about Chinese political figures etc. on the news, the Chinese name order is usually maintained. That's why we hear names such as "Xi Jinping" in relation to China (or "Kim Jong-un" in relation to North Korea, because Korean uses the same convention – though I recently heard someone on a current affairs show call him "Un", as if that were his last name).
No, you can't. You might be thinking of "吗", which would typically come at the end of a sentence. This isn't generally true of "么", which isn't used on its own as a question word.
Check out these articles, which talk about the placement of question words that use "么":
And here's one that discusses "吗":
Me disculpo por no escribir en inglés, pero mi nivel no es tan bueno. En el computador de escritorio se puede instalar el paquete de idioma de chino simplificado, y en los ejercicios de escritura escoger "use keybord", así se puede practicar la escritura en pinyin y seleecionar con el teclado numérico el caracter correcto.