Mispronouncing Names Can Affect A Child

Editorial Team

Kids with names that people find hard to pronounce are often the object of silly jokes as people pronounce their name funny, I remember having to fight for my brother while growing up, his name is Patlick but kids preferred to call him "Sparkling" or "lick" when he gets angry and tries to beat them, they'll beat him up, then he'd come to me crying.

Memories of childhood teasing is still fresh in my head, this is something most kids with rare names encounter every day. And teachers don't make things any better, my Igbo English teacher pronounced my last name like it's impossible to pronounce, and when he pronounces it funny and the whole class erupts into laughter, the right thing he should have done is ask, "how do you pronounce your name" but instead, he'd shrug or ignore it and still make the same mistake over and over.

Thankfully I was a pretty big kid so they can only tease me from afar, they never dared to come close. But when a teacher doesn't bother to learn how to pronounce a child's name correctly, he's sending the message that the name is weird and low-level.

Even in cities where kids with different cultural background are, kids with unusual name (because it's non-English and hard to pronounce) are still being singled out and sometimes bullied by their peers.

A new study by Rita Kohli of Santa Clara University and Daniel Solórzano of UCLA, says the mispronunciation of ethnic names amounts to microagressions, "subtle daily insults, that as a form of racism, support a racial and cultural hierarchy of minority inferiority." In other words, when the teacher doesn't bother to learn how to pronounce a child's name correctly, he's sending the message that the name is weird and sub-par.

The problem with mispronouncing or changing a name is that the significance of the name can be negated, so also is the child's identity. When a child's name is joked about from time to time, it gives them this feeling that they don't belong and worse still such kids might start doubting their place or cultural worth in the society.

But how do we address this issue? Parents should talk about why teachers should learn to pronounce their student's name correctly during PTA meetings, but the problem is, name mispronunciation is not seen as a problem therefore the issue might be taken with levity hand.