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Who Here Has a Foreign-Sounding Name and How Do You Deal With It?

by Moneer81
Tags: deal, foreignsounding
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Moneer81
#1
Dec3-12, 08:39 AM
P: 155
Hello,

So I figured since this forum has many international student and people from diverse background, you might be able to relate.

My name is not very difficult, but it is not common. My first name is Moneer, so many people here in the US haven't seen it. When I meet people at the university for example, they tend to be a little more comfortable with foreign-sounding names, but there have many instances where the person I meet gets caught off-guard or confused when I introduce myself. Also, one of the main drawbacks is that you can never have a smooth conversation when you meet someone, because whenever you say your name, people respond with confusion, and usually have to ask you to repeat it, and might even avoid you (rare, but it happens) because they don't want the hassle of figuring out your name or butchering it.

Like I said, it is really not a big deal, but I am wondering if other people have had similar experiences, frustrations, etc. My name is easy to pronounce but I get so many people asking me how to pronounce it and when I tell them, they always respond: "aaah, just like it is spelled!"

What do you do to make people more comfortable with your name?
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arildno
#2
Dec3-12, 09:11 AM
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My name is Arild, and that is very unusual in the US.
Therefore, I tend to stay put here in Norway, so that I do not have to experience mispronounciations and quizzical looks due to my name.
Moneer81
#3
Dec3-12, 09:35 AM
P: 155
Arild,

This is exactly what I am talking about, you should not "stay put" or avoid meeting new people because your name is hard to pronounce. I do not think it is hard to pronounce, and I like your name, but I understand how people might get a little confused and ask you to repeat it a couple of times. It is really annoying, and sometimes it is almost offensive that because your name is not "Mike" or "John", people are all confused...

There has to be a way to lessen the effect of this. I tried shortening my name to "Mo" but I really dislike that name. That is the common approach for people that have foreign names like Sameer -> Sam. Arild is already short so you probably can't shorten it.

arildno
#4
Dec3-12, 09:43 AM
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Who Here Has a Foreign-Sounding Name and How Do You Deal With It?

I was joking, Moneer..
I'm a Norwegian living in my home country..
----
having worked, at times, as a teacher in Oslo East, where many immigrants have names like Mounir, Waqas, Bilal and so on (names that are utterly "strange" in Norwegian) I have learnt how important it is to learn your students' names quickly, as gesture of respect towards them.
wuliheron
#5
Dec3-12, 09:48 AM
P: 1,967
LOL, first world problems are the funniest. My own common Irish name was butchered at Ellis Island when our illiterate ancestors immigrated to the US only to have someone who didn't speak their language document them. I just smile when people mispronounce it and get the spelling wrong knowing the Chinese and other immigrants have it much, much, worse.
arildno
#6
Dec3-12, 10:02 AM
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Is it pronounced as Seamouse, wuli??
Moneer81
#7
Dec3-12, 10:05 AM
P: 155
Quote Quote by wuliheron View Post
LOL, first world problems are the funniest. My own common Irish name was butchered at Ellis Island when our illiterate ancestors immigrated to the US only to have someone who didn't speak their language document them. I just smile when people mispronounce it and get the spelling wrong knowing the Chinese and other immigrants have it much, much, worse.
haha true...I should have mentioned in my first post that this is not a serious problem and that many people have much more important things to worry about, but oh well, this is the lounge, and anything can go here...
lisab
#8
Dec3-12, 10:12 AM
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Quote Quote by Moneer81 View Post
haha true...I should have mentioned in my first post that this is not a serious problem and that many people have much more important things to worry about, but oh well, this is the lounge, and anything can go here...
As someone close to me once said, we have first-world problems because, well, we live in the first world. We don't worry about malaria but that doesn't mean we don't have worries.

Yes, I bet it's a pain having an exotic name. My name is ever, ever so common, which presents its own problems. Or maybe I should say, presents its own "problems" .
BobG
#9
Dec3-12, 11:38 AM
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I have the opposite problem - an American sounding name with a foreign spelling (Swiss ancestory with a German name). Since the spelling is easier than the American word, people invent unusual pronunciations for my name. And those that know the pronunciation tend to misspell my name (which can be a bigger problem).

And as for the branch that came from France? Boussard was changed to Buzard. With the pronunciation eventually changed to match the word "buzzard". And the poor kids go to kindergarten and their teacher constantly tells them they misspelled their name again. It can be tough going through life missing a letter in your name.

One branch of my family came from the Schleswig-Holstein region of Denmark (mixed Danish/German). Their name was Jepsen (pronounced Yep-sen). In the US, the family eventually split in thirds. One third wanted their name pronounced correctly and changed the spelling of their name to Yepsen. One third wanted their name spelled correctly and changed the pronunciation of their name to Jepsen. One third wanted both and just go through life correcting people. I came from the Yepsen branch, which created a challenge when I was tracing my genealogy. The name just suddenly dead-ended as surely as having an ancestor that died at birth. It took a bit of effort to figure out what happened.
arildno
#10
Dec3-12, 11:54 AM
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"One branch of my family came from the Schleswig-Holstein region of Denmark (mixed Danish/German). Their name was Jepsen (pronounced Yep-sen)"

Fascinating.
I just made a statistical name check in Denmark versus Norway, because here in Norway, the name "Jebsen" is at least heard of, whereas "Jepsen" is practically unknown.
And sure enough, while in Denmark, Jepsen is by far the most common of the two, the reverse is true in Norway.
Whovian
#11
Dec3-12, 11:59 AM
P: 642
My surname's Dejean. (Yep, the j isn't capitalized. Pronounced something along the lines of day-john. Well, that's how my family pronounces it, I'm not sure how it would be pronounced in France.)

A lot of people seem to pronounce it "De-Jean," "jean" being pronounced like the singular form of the common denim pants. If they have a singular form. You know what I mean. I just grit my teeth and try to ignore the mispronunciation. Badly, usually.
Moneer81
#12
Dec3-12, 12:06 PM
P: 155
Very interesting...I guess there are many last names that are hard to pronounce, but my main concern is with first names, as those tend to used on a daily basis...

I have a last name that is not common as well and could be tricky to pronounce although it is short, but it does not bother me very much as I don't find myself having to use it as much. But I admit that had I had an uncommon first name and an easy last name, it would have made things a little better...
wuliheron
#13
Dec3-12, 12:58 PM
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Quote Quote by arildno View Post
Is it pronounced as Seamouse, wuli??
My name is pronounced Hin Chee, but most people pronounce it Hen Chee. Ironically my Chinese nick name of Wu Li (woo lee) is easier for people to get right. :)
AlephZero
#14
Dec3-12, 02:53 PM
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Quote Quote by wuliheron View Post
My name is pronounced Hin Chee, but most people pronounce it Hen Chee.
If you spelled it the proper way ( hAonghusa) they probably wouldn't even get that close. Irish spelling isn't so much a language as an encryption system

I think the worst problems with this in the UK are Sri Lankans, who tend to have very long names in a language that is syllabic, not alphabetic. There is a Sri Lankan at work whose initials are SKS (and his full name is 18 syllables long) who for practical purposes just calls himself "Nathan", which is the last two syllables of his real name.
jtbell
#15
Dec3-12, 03:32 PM
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I'm an American, but I've sometimes had minor problems with my first name when I've traveled in non-English speaking European countries. It begins with the English J sound which isn't very common in other languages, in which the letter J is usually pronounced like English Y. (As in Jepsen/Yepsen.)

In the Nordic countries, substituting the Y sound for the J sound is natural because it makes my name sound like a very common Nordic name, so I let people use that instead of making them struggle with the English J sound.
Moneer81
#16
Dec3-12, 03:48 PM
P: 155
Quote Quote by jtbell View Post
I'm an American, but I've sometimes had minor problems with my first name when I've traveled in non-English speaking European countries. It begins with the English J sound which isn't very common in other languages, in which the letter J is usually pronounced like English Y. (As in Jepsen/Yepsen.)

In the Nordic countries, substituting the Y sound for the J sound is natural because it makes my name sound like a very common Nordic name, so I let people use that instead of making them struggle with the English J sound.
I agree that letting people say your name the way they're comfortable is best. I have had my name butchered many times and the person usually says "did I get that right?" and I always tell them "you got it perfect!" although they did not...

I also realized that the key when you introduce yourself is saying your name slowly, and saying it very clearly, so they can understand it. If someone introduces themselves as John, all you need to hear is the "J" and "N" sound and you probably guess that it is John, but for less common names, one needs to hear the name fully and slowly...
Mute
#17
Dec3-12, 04:08 PM
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I don't have a foreign-to-english or hard to spell name and people still pronounce it incorrectly from time to time! Of course, that's because it looks/sounds a bit like a more common name, so it's more a case of them calling me a similar but incorrect name.
wuliheron
#18
Dec3-12, 05:32 PM
P: 1,967
Quote Quote by AlephZero View Post
If you spelled it the proper way ( hAonghusa) they probably wouldn't even get that close. Irish spelling isn't so much a language as an encryption system
I've often thought I may have been lucky my ancestors were illiterate because there's no telling what name I would have been stuck with. With my warped sense of humor though I still get a kick out of people asking me if I'm Chinese. I'm 6'2" with green eyes and brown hair, though I do have a yellowish color thanks to some Native American blood. :)


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