Monday, December 17, 2007

Would a student by any other name learn as well?

One of the notable differences between teaching in Japan and Korea has to do with names. In Japan, students used their own names. This was not surprising, and indeed I had never considered the possibility of doing otherwise. This caused some problems at first, because I was unfamiliar with Japanese name, and mangled more than a few pronunciations, but I learnt at least the more frequent students names, and learnt to dread a few.

Over here students all have English names. Sometimes the students already have previously acquired an English name, but sometimes new students to the school need a name, and their foreign teacher gets that privilege. They can and sometimes do change their English name at whim later on though. The Korean teachers and staff also have English names, although they have significantly more freedom to choose and change names.

To me it seems a bit weird and undignified doing this. I know I would be reluctant to give up my name if I moved to a different country (even most of the names I've gone by on the internet are somehow related to my real name, although in some cases the connection is quite convoluted).

There seem to be two main arguments for this. The first is to familiarize the students with English names, which while true, is probably just as effective as the kids watching American TV and calling foreign teachers by their real name.

The second is that Korean names are difficult for the foreign teachers to pronounce, which right now is true because 1) I don't know the language very much and aren't familiar with the sounds used, and 2) the only names I've seen have been written in Hangul, so I've had the extra burden of deciphering the alphabet as well as the pronunciation (try pronouncing and English word correctly while reading at a rate of one letter per second). I am sure that just as with Japanese names, in time any teacher would become competent with Korean names if given the opportunity.

Ultimately it is a matter of respect. I know how I'd feel if someone said to me "It's too hard to pronounce your name, so I'm going to call you Bob instead." Not impressed.

End Post
Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: iTunes shuffle, currently Miami International from the Casino Royale soundtrack

1 comment:

David Barry said...

Changing my name is not something I've had to do in my French classes, since even if our classes did have to adopt a French name, I could still get by as a David. (I'm perfectly happy with the pronunciation of my name changing in French, and I introduce myself here as Davvid.) I was a Ludwig for my four weeks of Year 6 German though.

I think the main idea for it is so that you don't get used to having you native language's sounds in amongst the foreign language sentences. I've never really thought about it too much though.