This is my first spring semester at Furman, and I have realized how much harder this time of the year seems compared to the fall. The cold, increased COVID-19 protocols, and academics have all gotten tougher. However, to me, the toughest thing I have experienced so far is when others mispronounce student names.
Of course, I do not expect people to automatically know how to pronounce names in other languages. However, I do think trying to accurately say another person’s name correctly is a sign of respect. Throughout my time at Furman, I have often seen professors rush through the pronunciation of their students’ names (and brush away those same students’ corrections). Personally, I am often frustrated because I must repeat my name several times before other community members can pronounce it correctly.
Part of my frustration as an international student is the lack of effort of other community members. Many Americans don’t have to struggle to pronounce complicated words in foreign languages, such as charcuterie, hors d’oeuvre, and faux pas. Yet, when it comes to pronouncing another’s name there is not so much effort to get things right. Many students of diverse backgrounds at Furman already struggle to navigate their identities, and the added disrespect of habitually mispronouncing our names adds to that challenge.
If you are reading this thinking, “I often struggle with this, how can I do better?” here are some tips to help you better pronounce your peers’ names:
Ask for the spelling of a person’s name. Generally, this will make it easier for you to pronounce it correctly.
If you still cannot pronounce it, ask for a pronunciation spelling. This can help you visualize how it will sound and show that person that you care.
Ask for the meaning of their names and the origin language of their name. On the surface, this may help you remember their name. On a deeper level, this may allow you to bond with that person through understanding the cultural significance of their name.
You may be asking yourself why a person’s name is so important. What's the big deal?
Names are an important part of every person’s identity. They often carry deep familial connections, as well as cultural and historical significance. Understanding and accurately pronouncing this integral part of your peers' identity is a sign of interest in and care for them as individuals. The more we celebrate names, the more we celebrate diversity and inclusion.
Trying to improve in this way may be difficult, but I assure you that it is much harder for students who feel they must fight just for their community to say their name correctly.
Furman University Student Activities Board (FUSAB) has created an event to help celebrate the significance of student names. “What’s In A Name? Say My Name” is an event that invites students of “all ethnic, gender, racial, and national identities to share the story of their names” through a variety of approaches, such as poetry, monologue, music, or dance. Furman students interested in presenting their name in this CLP are invited to apply by Jan. 20 using this link. The event, which is CLP pending, will be hosted Feb. 10 at 5:30 PM in Burgiss Theatre.
Even if you are not interested in applying for this event, you can still attend to hear the correct pronunciations and stories behind your peers’ names. And even if you cannot attend, make a conscious effort to SAY MY NAME correctly.