Practicing Cultural Humility: Pronouncing Names Correctly

It was my first day of elementary school and the teacher took roll for the first time. As she called my name, I raised my hand, just like the rest of the boys and girls sitting around me. That morning stuck out to me because it was the first time someone besides my mother and father had said my name, and they said it wrong. It became so normal to me that I began calling myself see-uh-vosh by the end of the year. As a young boy, and along with many others with foreign names, I anglicized my name so that my classmates would have an easier time pronouncing my name. Everyone else tried to give me a nickname when they heard how difficult my name is to pronounce. I thought, ‘now I don’t have to repeat my name so many times to help other people pronounce it!’

It wasn’t until recently that I realized I went through this process of anglicizing my name, because I thought it was the normal thing to do: I just wanted to fit in. After all, my cousins did it too.

In a post titled  “How We Pronounce Students’ Names and Why It Matters,” Gonzalez shares his opinions on what it means to mispronounce someone’s name, “Whether you intend to or not, what you’re communicating is this: Your name is different. Foreign. Weird. It’s not worth my time to get it right.”

When someone messes up our names or never bothers to learn the right way to say it, it’s disrespectful. When, on the other hand, we take the time to get someone’s name right, we honor them. When we tell yourself that we’re just “bad with names,” we’re telling others that we don’t care to learn more about them.

We all have the opporutnity to honor those around us by pronouncing our collegues’ names correctly.

I’m going to introduce myself as SYA-vash from now on, and you should too. Just kidding, but you know what I mean!