What’s in a Student’s Name?

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Often, the first knowledge a teacher has of an English Language Learner (ELL) in the classroom is his name on a roster. It may look different from typical U.S. names. You may not know how to pronounce it. Sometimes you may be able to guess what language an ELL speaks by looking at his name and sometimes not.

How can you prepare to best welcome this learner? First of all, be careful about forming an incorrect pronunciation of his name in your mind before you meet him. Once you do meet him, listen closely to how he says his name and repeat it as accurately as you can. Write it down phonetically if that helps you. Take care not to Americanize the sounds or stress the wrong syllables.

If it is difficult for you to say, be aware that making an issue of that, even in a self-deprecating way, will only embarrass him. If you can’t pronounce it right away, keep trying and once you get it, practice it until it’s automatic. If you’ve ever had someone mispronounce your name, you understand how important it can be for a teacher to get each student’s name right!

Did you know? Many names have multiple parts. Two-part first names are common in many cultures, and they should not be treated as a first name and a middle name. Two-part last names are common in Spanish-speaking cultures.

In many Asian cultures, the family name comes first and the given name is second; your school office may or may not have “converted” them for you into American English order. Always ask for the student for clarification.

From Professional Learning Board’s online continuing education course for teachers: Teaching English Language Learners

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2 Responses to “What’s in a Student’s Name?”
  1. Wonderful advice and so relevant to global learning and teaching.

    I am loving your newsletter. It is so full of helpful sites and tips. Congratulations to you.

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