My Name is…

A new semester and a new class of names to remember. As an ESL teacher I don’t have to just remember names, but also which name. Do my students want their birth name or an anglicized version? And should teachers use the English names to make it easier for them to pronounce or encourage students to use their proper name in the spirit of cultural openness?

If something ‘suits’ you it matches or is right for you. ‘What a lovely sweater – the colour green really suits you.’

Grace Chu-Lin Chang is a PhD student at MacQuarie University in Sydney, Australia. Ms Chang adopted an English name in preparation for higher education. One reason was because an English name could be remembered more easily by colleagues and staff. It was not an easy decision to find a name which suited her. She decided on Grace after the character of the first lady in the film Air Force One, because the name was elegant and it fit her Christian beliefs.

“I don’t feel like I’m losing my identity, because the English name also presents my identity and most importantly it is an addition rather than a replacement. For example, it is still my Mandarin birth name which is used in all of my official documents,” she said.

Ms Chang, who is Taiwanese, has studied why other Taiwanese speakers adopt English names. She gave three reasons for the decision. One is that Mandarin names can be difficult to pronounce. Secondly, the students may find the mispronunciation of their names upsetting. Also, some people believe adopting an English name is a way of keeping their identity. For example, some Mandarin names may sound like a name for the opposite sex when transliterate into English. To avoid confusion and preserve one’s gender identity an English name may be preferred.

But this emphasis on English names does favour English culture. Though English is the main global language, shouldn’t we try to support cultural diversity?

If you have a bond to something you are very attached to it. ‘My brother and I have had a close bond since we were children.’

“I believe everyone has a different level of bond to their own names. Some see their names from a functional perspective and don’t feel much difference if their names should be transliterated or changed for any reason especially when adding an English name is not a forced decision,” Ms Chang said. But she added that other people are more connected to their name and then it is difficult for them to accept any change to their original name.

A person’s name can also have some impact on their career. Ms Chang mentioned research in Australia which showed that CVs with non-Anglo-Saxon names received fewer calls for interviews than CVs with Anglo-Saxon names. The CVs were not for real people but used real sounding names so that the CVs appeared to come from applicants from Anglo-Saxon, Italian, Chinese and Arabic backgrounds. The CVs showed applicants who would be eligible for the job. Only the names differed. The big difference in return calls for CVs with English names and those with Chinese or Arabic suggests some employers were looking at the names and thinking about the applicants’ ethnic identities.

Clearly, names are not simple things. They reflect how we see ourselves and how others see us.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team


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A new semester and a new class of names I have to remember. As an ESL teacher I don’t have to just remember names, but also remember which name. Do my students want their birth name or an anglicized version?

Grace Chu-Lin Chang is a PhD student at MacQuarie University in Sydney, Australia. Ms Chang adopted an English name in preparation for higher education. One reason was because an English name could be remembered more easily by colleagues and staff.

“I don’t feel like I’m losing my identity, because the English name also presents my identity and most importantly it is an addition rather than a replacement. For example, it is still my Mandarin birth name which is used in all of my official documents,” she said.

Ms Chang, who is Taiwanese, has studied why other Taiwanese speakers adopt English names. She gave a few reasons for the decision. One is that Mandarin names can be difficult to pronounce. Secondly, the students may find the mispronunciation of their names upsetting.

But this emphasis on English names does favour English culture. Though English is the main global language, shouldn’t we try to support cultural diversity?

If something reflects something else it shows it back. A mirror reflects your image. But here the author is saying that names reflect, or show, something about ourselves.

A person’s name can also have some impact on their career. Ms Chang mentioned research in Australia which showed that CVs with non-Anglo-Saxon names received fewer calls for interviews than CVs with Anglo-Saxon names. The big difference in return calls suggests some employers were looking at the names and thinking about the applicants’ ethnic identities.

Names are not simple things. They reflect how we see ourselves and how others see us.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team


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A new semester and a new class of names to remember. However, as an ESL teacher the issue isn’t just remembering names, it’s remembering which name. Do my students want their birth name or an anglicized version (if the case may be)? And should teachers use the English names for ease of pronunciation or encourage students to use their own proper name in the spirit of cultural inclusivity?

I thought the best person to ask would be someone who has decided to change his/her name. Grace Chu-Lin Chang is a PhD student at MacQuarie University in Sydney, Australia. Ms Chang adopted an English name in preparation for higher education. One reason was the ease with which an English name could be remembered by colleagues and academic staff. Yet, the choice was not simple because she couldn’t find a name which suited her. She eventually settled on Grace after the character of the first lady in the film Air Force One, because the name was elegant and it fit her Christian beliefs.

“I don’t feel like I’m losing my identity, because the English name also presents my identity and most importantly it is an addition rather than a replacement. For example, it is still my Mandarin birth name which is used in all of my official documents,” she said.

Ms Chang, who is Taiwanese, has studied why other Taiwanese speakers adopt English names. She gave three reasons for the decision. The first is consideration to non-Mandarin speakers, who may find Mandarin names difficult to pronounce. Secondly, the students may find the mispronunciation of their names ‘disturbing to their sense of identity’. Thirdly and somewhat paradoxically, adopting an English name is a way of maintaining identity. Some Mandarin names may sound like a name for the opposite sex when transliterated into English. Ms Chang gave the example of the Chinese male name transliterated as Wen Dei which can sound like Wendy to English speakers. To avoid confusion and preserve one’s gender identity an English name may be preferred.

But this emphasis on English names does create an imbalance in favor of English culture. Though English is the main global language, shouldn’t we try to support cultural diversity? Names seem to be a crucial way to do this. Ms Chang however puts the question of names in a very personal light.

“I believe everyone has a different level of bond to their own names. Some see their names from a functional perspective and don’t feel much difference if their names should be transliterated or changed for any reason especially when adding an English name is not a forced decision. However, some have a deeper and intimate connection between sense of self and their names, and it is really hard for them to experience any change of their names such as being transliterated and losing the original sounds and meanings presented in their own language, being called with incorrect pronunciation by different people, or having to give themselves another name to avoid many inconveniences,” she said.

A person’s name can also have some impact on their career. Ms Change cited research in Australia which showed that CVs with non-Anglo-Saxon names received fewer callbacks from businesses than CVs with Anglo-Saxon names. The CVs were not for real people. The researchers used randomly generated but real sounding names so that the CVs sounded as though they were for applicants from Anglo-Saxon, Italian, Chinese and Arabic backgrounds. In all other respects the CVs showed applicants who would be eligible for the job. Only the names differed. The significant discrepancies in return calls, especially between Arabic and Chinese CVs and the Anglo-Saxon CVs, suggest some employers were looking at the names and taking the applicants’ ethnic identities into account. However, the researchers admit that without interviews, the conclusions they drew were limited.

Names are not simple things. They reflect both how we see ourselves and how others see us. On one hand, a more tolerant society should welcome the rich assortment of names and the many cultures they reflect. However, we sadly live in a far from ideal world and should take into account that a person may wish to change their name to improve his/her chances. Personally, I let students know they have the option. But if a student wants to adopt an English sounding name, I respect it.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia


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2 Responses to “My Name is…”

  1. hello , the quiz doesnt fit to the article above

    thank you 🙂

    petra

  2. Hi Petra,
    Thanks for the heads up.
    We’ve fixed the problem.
    The right quiz should be there.
    Regards,
    The Word Team

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