Why Is It Important to Pronounce Student Names Correctly?
Student names are indicative of the learner’s identity and cultural background. It is an essential part of who they are. It is therefore important that the teacher learns to pronounce the name properly, however difficult it may be.
Student names are an important aspect when creating a culturally inclusive classroom and are often an indicator of the child’s ethnicity. We have often heard of students being on the receiving end of ridicule simply because of their names, and sometimes it may arise from improper pronunciation. Learners may resort to nicknames that may sound a lot like English names to avoid the trouble of explaining their actual names or constantly reminding others how their names ought to be pronounced.
While nicknames are acceptable, they may take from the learner’s sense of pride in their heritage as well as their sense of identity. In an attempt to fit in, learners may lose who they are, which is detrimental to diversity.
Teachers often mispronounce students’ names out of unfamiliarity with the names. It may be an innocent mistake but with negative impacts as explained below:
What are the negative effects of mispronouncing student names?
- A decline in student performance
Improper pronunciation of student names may make the learner feel marginalized, affecting their attitude in the classroom and, consequently, learning outcomes. Mispronunciation indicates the teacher’s lack of effort in learning the student’s name.
- Learners may face ridicule
When the teacher mispronounces the student’s name, other learners may pick it up and make jokes at the learner’s expense. A child will have difficulty performing in class if they are the butt of everyone’s jokes. This leaves the student with feelings of unworthiness and even resentment towards other learners and even the educator.
- It affects the child’s sense of identity
When a child has to give themselves nicknames or shorten their names to conform to the standards of the majority in their environment, it negatively affects their sense of pride in their ethnic identity. Constantly mispronouncing student names could lead to shame and embarrassment that may cause the student to disassociate themselves from their community.
- Mispronunciation renders the child invisible in the classroom
When the teacher is constantly pronouncing the student’s name wrongly, one may choose to avoid participating in the classroom for fear of ridicule. Even when they have a good point to make, they are rendered voiceless in the classroom.
- Negative social implications
Some children find themselves as the only ones of their ethnicity in the classroom. It does not help when the teacher does not look like them. Mispronouncing their names only sets them apart negatively and may sometimes impact their social interactions. It also makes them feel alone in the classroom, affecting their ability to articulate their thoughts and feelings. The ridicule resulting from mispronunciation affects their self-esteem and isolates them from their classmates even further.
What can be done?
To say that we have underestimated the impact of mispronunciation of student names on the student is an understatement. It may be a small and often acceptable mistake but with far-reaching consequences on the student wellbeing and performance as well as in promoting culturally responsive teaching.
To begin with, teachers need to learn student names and their proper pronunciation. Instances of ridicule because of how a name is spelled or pronounced in the classroom should be discouraged. These are simple steps that can be taken to promote a more accommodating classroom environment for minority students.