Class List

Chang, Jung Ri Jina

Kung, Neul Ha Rita

Kim, Mi A. Sherry

Kim, Youngsu Ben

Kim, Sung Yeon Frank

Lee, Sung Woo Thomas

Lee, Yang Min Tony

Lim, Hang Yuon Bob

Lin, Hsiao-Yuan Paul

Moon, Youngsu Jackie

Nguyen, Thi Tran Cookie

Vo, Hoa Thi Wendy

I would love to say that this is made up. I would also love to say that as a linguist, I forced myself to learn the correct pronunciation of each name in my class, as a form of respect to the students. But let’s be honest- my thoroughly English-speaking brain cannot wrap itself around back offglides to centering dipthongs and aspirated voiceless stops. So when I butcher their Vietnamese or Korean or Indian or Arabic name, and they smile (sometimes chuckle) and tell me, “Yes, but you can call me Tina”, I secretly breathe a sigh of relief and scratch out their first name, even though I feel a little bit like the immigration officer in The Godfather, inept and unwilling to learn:

“Vye-toe? Where are you from? Cor-lay-oh-nay. Vye-to Cor-lay-oh-nay. Next.”

I ask my students to call me by my first name, as my last names are both hard to pronounce for second language learners. I despise “Teacher”, just like I despise “Mommy” fifteen hundred and seventy-two times a day. A good friend IRL, working at the same place, has had similar experiences with her classes. Maybe we need a class in Asiatic languages to better tune our tongues. Maybe we just need to take more time and really listen. Our name is intricately connected to our identity, and a simple line through a name can’t erase a lifetime of self, but I still wonder what message I’m sending when I so willingly throw in the towel.

And then, in class:

“Teacher? Teacher. Teacher-”

And I don’t for a minute feel bad about all the Wendys and Tonys and Sherrys.

좋은 날을 보내십시오!!!

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6 Responses to Class List

  1. antropologa says:

    Yeah. 🙂 Though I get a kick out of “Teacher.” It’s like “President” or or “Pope” or something. Honorific!

  2. KathyB! says:

    I think you are wonderful for respecting the students’ individuality and identity. I think the fact that you took time to think about it, and whether or not it hurts them on some level is probably indicative of the type of teacher (teacher! teacher? TEACHER!!! — couldn’t resist!) that you are. I think they’re lucky to have you.

    FWIW, I had a friend in college with a complicated Asian name. I tried and tried to get it right. She finally asked me to please call her Kim, as it hurt her ears when I got it wrong (she didn’t say it in a mean way)…

  3. faemom says:

    I like that you think about these things. It’s wonderful. And as someone who envies you your hard-earned linguistic skills, I’m secretly glad you have problems with some names. As I never wanted to do roll-call when I did Girl Scouts because I knew I would just butcher their names. Of course, like you are “Teacher” the Hispanic girls could never get my name quite right. So we’re even.

  4. D says:

    I know exactly what you mean. As long as the students are the ones to make up their fake American name, I guess it’s okay.

  5. erin says:

    i’ve got mixed feelings, too, about learning so many foreign (to me)-language names at once. it is definitely hard to do, try though you may! at least you’re consistent. i basically learned the names of some and used their english names for others, although it still doesn’t feel quite right having to remind myself that i’m not calling them by their given names. although, in school, it’s kind of fun. i liked my chinese name, and didn’t mind at all when those who didn’t know me well used it to address me, so, yeah, most of your students are probably enjoying it, in a way.

  6. Pingback: Dear Xinyue « Evenshine’s Weblog

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