Pronouncing Student Names Correctly: A Quick Guide

By Corey Mitchell — May 12, 2016 1 min read
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Yee Wan has some simple advice for teachers who struggle to pronounce the names of their students: Start a conversation.

“The best way for teachers to learn how to pronounce the name is to talk to the student, to connect with the student and with the parents,” said Wan, the president of the National Association for Bilingual Education. “That personal connection makes the student and their family feel welcome in the school.”

Wan, who is also director of multilingual education services at the Santa Clara County Office of Education in California, helped launched the “My Name, My Identity” campaign, an initiative that aims to raise awareness about the importance of respecting names and identities in schools. She was featured prominently in an Education Week story this week about the campaign.

For those who want to take a practice run on name pronunciation before meeting a student, Wan recommends several online guides, including Forvo, How to Pronounce, Inogolo, and Pronounce by VOA News, that provide pronunciation in multiple languages. But Wan strongly recommends a face-to-face conversation, even if you use the guides.

Angel Gustavo Silva Moreno agrees. The 15-year-old freshman at Downtown College Prep Alum Rock High School in San Jose, Calif., said he always corrects people when they mispronounce his name.

“It represents where I’m from, my culture, my ethnicity, my ancestry,” Moreno, the son of Mexico immigrants, said in an interview with Education Week.

But not all students correct teachers, principals, or staff members who consistently mispronounce their names. Via social media, a few educators offered tips on learning how to properly pronounce student names. Unsurprisingly, the suggestions call for conversation.

Photo Credit: James Tensuan for Education Week

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.