We have all been called the wrong name at some point. It may have been a substitute teacher calling attendance. It could have been a family member who shortened our name for their convenience. Friends may have given us nicknames they thought were funny. Some of us have experienced all of the above and more. Regardless, it’s important to be called by the right name, which includes the proper pronunciation.
Shortening names, giving nicknames or repeatedly mispronouncing a name can send a message of ‘other’ to a child, like in some way their name is not enough. When we encounter a new name, we might need to have it repeated multiple times before we hear it properly, let alone begin to say it correctly. Struggling with an unfamiliar name may make us want to make light of the situation or even make a joke. However, this can make the person we’re talking to feel small, as if their name is silly and not worth the time to learn.
When we take the time to learn how to pronounce someone’s name, we show them we care. As our community becomes more diverse, the variety of names we hear also grows in new and delightful ways. This means becoming comfortable with names we may not be familiar with and may struggle to get right. Continuing to try to properly pronounce the names of those we care about is one way to show them they have value and belong.
We can use phrases such as, “I’m sorry I’m making this hard for you, but I want to learn to say it right,” and “I would love to learn to say your name the way your family does” to help show a child we care about them and want to make them comfortable. Remember, practice makes progress, not perfection. It is that commitment to practice that shows our compassion.
Are you looking for books that emphasize the importance of name pronunciation? Check out this list!