Video: "Difficult" to pronounce names and the effect on education

I’ve just stumbled across this thought-provoking video and article, and I thought I’d share it here.

I would be really interested to to hear your own experiences of this. Did you have a name which teachers or fellow students mispronounced (or worse) at school? Are you a teacher with experience of this? Are you a parent of a child with a name that is frequently mispronounced?

Video here :point_down:

"Almost everyone has school memories of the student — or students — who had to bear the brunt of having a name that others couldn’t, or wouldn’t, correctly pronounce. A name that was different from their peers, or “difficult” for a teacher to say out loud. But the question is, different from what, and why was the pronunciation challenging?

On an audible level, our names are the most basic building blocks of our identity. It is how we are called, recognized, and recorded by the community at large. So what happens when that name is stigmatized, especially in an educational setting?"

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Haven’t watched the video yet, but oh my god the amount of times my name has been mispronounced…I don’t even think there’s a number high enough to count to. It’s made me pretty self conscious my whole life. Especially since I’m a naturally quiet person (vocally) in public and I have to repeat my name a thousand times for people to figure out what I’m saying.

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@futuremama

I think it will be a hard relate when you watch the video then!

I remember you sharing your name before, and I honestly think it’s beautiful. But I can also see how it could be misread and mispronounced by monolingual [name_f]English[/name_f] speakers, and that must be so wearing – especially as a young child, or a new member of a class or workplace, or just a naturally quiet person like you.

Do you feel it impacted on your school experience at all? Did you always correct mispronunciations, or did you generally let it slide?

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I’m lucky because my first name is pretty simple to pronounce, but I’ve definitely heard some butchered pronunciations of my friends’ names when I was at school. To be fair, most of the teachers at my school did try their best to learn the correct pronunciation, it was usually the temporary/cover teachers that didn’t bother. I guess in their eyes they were only there for a day/week/fortnight so it didn’t matter (but obviously it still does matter).

[name_f]My[/name_f] surname, on the other hand, is Irish and constantly mispronounced. It’s unfortunate as well, because the most common mispronunciation sounds a lot like “fart” :roll_eyes: cue the teasing… Fortunately nobody has said my full name aloud for a few years but I’m not looking forward to graduation!

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Oh no! :see_no_evil:

This is one of the reasons I chose to change my surname on marriage. [name_f]My[/name_f] maiden name was frequently misheard as other similar names, and I was asked about the spelling a lot. Now, my surname is two common words stuck together, which is much quicker and easier to explain (not that I have to very often).

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If it did, I don’t think it was significantly. I’ve blocked out a lot of my childhood though, honestly :joy: I almost always correct people, but sometimes it takes several corrections so if it’s like the 6th time in a row I’ve corrected them, I typically just give up and settle for something close enough.

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It’s so sad that this happens! Personally, when I was younger people would hear my name and repeat it back to me for confirmation and they frequently mistook it for a more popular name. After a few tries, they usually got it right. [name_f]My[/name_f] name is much more popular than it used to be, so that doesn’t happen much anymore. [name_f]My[/name_f] surname is mispronounced all. The. Time. Seriously. It’s a little annoying, but I’ve never felt it interfered with my education necessarily. I do know kids whose names have been more frequently mispronounced or even mocked and it makes me terribly sad. I don’t know how much it’s affected them, but it would hurt me a lot.

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I live in Turkey, and naming styles here is totally different from rest of the world.

A common conversation I have:

-Your name?
-[name_f]Penelope[/name_f]
-What?
-[name_f]Penelope[/name_f]. It’s… [name_f]English[/name_f].
-Oh, I understand. (To other people:) People use foreign names to feel unique. That’s nonsense.

Or:

-Your name?
-[name_f]Penelope[/name_f]
-?
-Peh-neh-LO-pee
-?
-Peh-neh-LO-pee
-?

:unamused:

People don’t even try to pronounce it! That makes me feel bad because everyone ignore my real name and use something else. My teachers and classmates use another name for me.

But, I don’t live the worst. Both my brothers have the letter “x” in their names, which doesn’t exist in Turkish alphabet. They often write them with “ks” (e. g. Maksimilian).

Shortly, we are having trouble with our names.

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I had a friend called [name_f]Kia[/name_f] pronounced ‘[name_m]Ky[/name_m]-ah’ and she had to explain to every teacher multiple times a day that it was ‘[name_m]Ky[/name_m]-ah’ not ‘Kee-ah’ and I felt bad because it was like the teachers just couldn’t be bothered to remember her name.

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Had one teacher who thought my name was pronounced BROWN-in, but she was only a substitute and I didn’t have her for that long. But I had one teacher for two years who kept calling me [name_f]Bryony[/name_f]. Had one person mistake it for [name_u]Robin[/name_u]. [name_f]My[/name_f] uncle and a friend for over ten years continue to spell it ‘Bronwin’. So yeah, I’ve had experience with this, but I love my name and most people learn it fairly easily.

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Oh my goodness! That’s… wow

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same. It is really annoying and disrespectful to me when people dismiss me when I tell them how I pronounce it by saying “they’re too Southern” or something. [name_f]My[/name_f] name is not that hard to pronounce in my opinion, and when people don’t even try it feels like they don’t really care about me. It’s one thing if you hear my name as [name_f]Eleanor[/name_f] or [name_f]Ellen[/name_f] and then correct it, or don’t know you’re pronouncing it wrong, or try to fix it, but if I’ve told someone multiple times and they don’t make any change, it’s not really cool.

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and only one teacher (my piano teacher) and my mom pronounce it right.

and like the video says, teachers always ask if they can call me a different name. and i just have to say ok or they might get me in trouble.

That’s really awful, and sad to hear.

This is the worry I think for a lot of students. The teachers (not all, obviously, but some) don’t really think about it. They ask if they can use a different name for ease, without thinking about how that feels to the student. And then if the student says yes, they assume they’re OK with it, even though they might just be too shy or too intimidated to speak up.

I’m so sorry you’ve felt this way :cry:

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I’d say my name is pretty out-there (it’s not every day you come across someone with a silent d in their name!), and through the years I have had more than my fair share of people mispronouncing/misspelling my name. The most common mispronunciation is something like ‘seh-leed’ or ‘sea-lid’, which is far off-base from how Ceilidh is supposed to be. [name_f]Every[/name_f] now and then I’ll get [name_f]Cecilia[/name_f], which I assume is just that poor person’s brain short-circuiting and picking the closest ‘normal’ name to it that they can think of.
Honestly though, I really don’t mind when people mess up with my name. I have no trouble with correcting them, and to be perfectly honest there’s something very amusing about watching a receptionist at a doctor’s office or a substitute teacher look at your name with mild panic as they try to figure out how the heck that’s supposed to be pronounced. I used to keep a collection of [name_u]Valentine[/name_u]’s day cards with my name misspelled on them when I was in elementary school, because I found it so fun to see all the different ways people tried to spell it. Aside from a couple friends who refer to me by my last name as a bit of a joke, no one has ever got a nickname to stick for me, and no teacher has had the audacity to ask to call me something else. Usually after one or two corrections people get the hang of how to say it, which I think is helped by the fact that [name_f]Kaylee[/name_f] (and the thousand other variants) is a relatively well-known name. The spelling takes a bit longer for people to grasp.
All in all, I feel like my name has really served me well throughout the years, and I would never trade it for something easier for the rest of the world. It sounds silly, but my name and what it means to my family makes me feel special, something that I wouldn’t give away just to be able to get a key chain with my name on it from a souvenir shop. However, I can see how it could become taxing if I were a different kind of person, so my heart goes out to all those struggling with their names around close-minded and rigid people who are too stubborn to make the effort to pronounce them properly.

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I haven’t had much experience with this, but I was so excited to hear that the professor took the time to remember all of her students’ names! This makes a huge difference! As a duel credit student (a high schooler who takes classes at a college/university), my self esteem was super low my first semester, and I was really self conscious. When a professor remembered my name, it was like I wasn’t a loner anymore! Somebody knew me! It was fantastic!

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Thank you for sharing this! I love this type of research/ theory! It’s so interesting.

I had a very pronouncable name but some people would still call me by another name that sounded the same except the syllables were reversed. It could be quite an annoying but the other name was mpre popular where I came from, plus it was mostly a bit of a joke so it wasn’t so bad.

Ironically, I was always surprised that everyone I came across in my life were able to pronounce my surname! One time when I was about 16 for a speaking exam my language teacher actually pronounced my surname wrong. It was so ironic as it was probably the one time someone shouldn’t have pronounced it wrong xD

Also @floatinthesky at my graduation they actually asked us all to fill out a little form with our names and the pronounciation of our names :slight_smile: maybe you’ll get that chance too

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My name was no so much mispronunced but misread as [name_f]Cerys[/name_f]. When I was a kid, I would correct people but I eventually gave up correcting them, unless they specifically asked me if they’d said it right, because it happened so much. I would respond to anything that sounded like my name, which made it difficult to know when someone was talking to me or someone with a similar sounding name.

As for mispronunciations, my friends in high school all went through this with teachers. Eiman (ee-man) would be eye-man or ih-man. Aneesa (deliberately had her name spelt this way so the pronunciation would be obvious) would be an-niss-uh. And [name_f]Saniyah[/name_f] (san-ee-uh or sun-ee-uh) would be san-eye-uh - the teachers who couldn’t pronounce this could pronounce [name_f]Aliyah[/name_f] as ah-lee-uh and [name_f]Sadiya[/name_f] as sahd-ee-uh which are almost the same.

I’ve also met several people who were amazed I could pronounce their names correctly, and sometimes I couldn’t see any other way they could be pronounced. I remember a Waleed (wuh-leed) telling me people normally say wah-lid, which I couldn’t believe was possible until my parents read his name. I also knew an [name_m]Ismail[/name_m] (iss-mail) who introduce himself as Smiley because no one could say his name. He didn’t even like being called Smiley so he was happy that I could actually say his name. I’ve also met an [name_m]Ignatius[/name_m] (ig-nay-she-us) who went by his surname because it was very common and people couldn’t say his very cool first name.

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I’m quite lucky to have a name that’s well-known and easy to say. But people still get it wrong sometimes or mistake it for another name, which can be annoying but doesn’t happen often enough for me to call it a problem. Almost everyone I know has had their name mispronounced or misspelled at some point, but it’s soon gotten over.

However, I know a girl called Sw@ira (suh-vee-ruh) and people constantly mispronounce her name. It annoys her, but generally people are quite good and only need a correcting a couple of times before they get it right. The spelling is completely different to the pronunciation so she doesn’t expect them to know how to say it immediately, but I can see how hard it would be to have an unusual name in day-to-day life. I also think that unless someone introduces themselves by a nickname, you should always make the effort to learn their name!

I think that it’s such a common thing to have “that student” with the difficult name that most people just shrug it off. But reading through some of these posts, I can’t believe that some people just refuse to learn someone’s name because it’s unfamiliar to them. Easy to pronounce is one of the main qualities that I look for in a name – but I always saw it as a matter of convenience rather than something that could seriously affect somebody’s education. [name_f]My[/name_f] heart goes out to everybody with “difficult” names :heart:

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I have an uncommon Irish name that is not automatically pronounceable by most Americans. To compound the situation, my parents decided to mispronounce my name, so it’s always been said in a way that is not the actual Irish way to pronounce it. So neither Irish people nor Americans can pronounce my name. To further compound the situation, there is a top 10 girls’ name that sounds a lot like my name the way I pronounce it. (I usually use that name at Starbucks.) I have been in the same class with the same 60 people (give or take a few new kids) for coming up on four years, and around a quarter of my class pronounces my name in several manners that are varying levels of incorrect. Last year my teacher pronounced my name wrong all year. I kept correcting her and then at some point there was no point. I really don’t like my name. If I didn’t have to correct every single person I met maybe I’d like it more, but I also just don’t like the sound of it or the way it looks written down. It also has negative religious connotations. I’m not yet an adult, but I do plan to change my name when I get there. I’ve talked about it with my parents and while my dad is pretty chill, my mom tends to be really controlling and said it would be very sad for her if I changed my name. I’m hoping to convince her otherwise. Anyway, if you made it to the end of this paragraph, congratulations! Hopefully things get better for you, whatever that means in your case.

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