English = easier? Really?

Yesterday as we sat waiting for a conference call, I chatted with some new(ish) colleagues.  One, who is Chinese-American, has a Chinese given name but goes by an Anglicized name.  When we first met, I was a little surprised because her phone number and email addresses came up with her legal name, but then she introduced herself with the English name — didn’t realize she was the person I’d been emailing because of the difference.  Her Chinese name is beautiful, although I mangle it.  Anyway, I learned yesterday that when she first went to school, her kindergarden teacher told her parents outright that her given name was too difficult and that they had to select an easier name for the other kids to call her.

What?  Really?

She’s maybe twenty-five years old — at most — so I was *shocked*.  I mean, I can imagine that 40 years ago, you’d encounter that, but this would have been in the early 1990s.

That would not happen today, I hope.



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8 responses to “English = easier? Really?

  1. Anonymous

    That happened to me a few times. Still does. “I just can’t seem to pronounce/spell/remember your name right. Can I call you something else? Something easier?”
    Some didn’t even bother to check if it was okay when they started using a name or nickname they decided for me.

  2. I think that a lot of Asian American families name their kids with an Anglicized name and with an Asian name. I have a lot of friends with this.
    Even I (and my brother and sister) have a Chinese name which my grandfather gave us, but which we don’t really use and isn’t our legal name. I feel like the whole thing is part of just.. having two names for the two identities.
    But that’s voluntary. This being forced to choose another name because of a school seems really dumb. I’d MUCH prefer to call someone by the name they WANT to be called, and learn how to pronounce it. Is it really that hard? And it’s so boring for everyone to have “easy” names.. there are so many pretty names in other languages.

    • I don’t like the “being forced” part either, and no child should have to change their name because other people have trouble with it. That being said, most of the Asian people I know have chosen, or their parents chose for them, a Western name that they know people here will have an easier time remember and use, and yeah, it would untrue to pretend it won’t make things easier for both the child and the teachers. I just hope they didn’t do it because they felt they HAD to.

    • When I asked, she said she goes by her English name professionally and only her family call her by her given name, she’s used to it now. Which is fine, even people with “easy” names have family nicknames. But still…

      • I think it just depends on why two names and this example seems kind of.. really sad.. having the school tell them that she needed another name. That’s not right.

  3. Anonymous

    My daughter’s best friend is Chinese, and when she started learning English in China the teacher gave them each an English name, and that’s the name she goes by over here. It’s a peculiar way to acquire a name – just by where you were sitting in class that day.
    But, obviously, that’s a different thing than a teacher telling the parents they have to use another name: that’s ridiculous and wrong.
    Marianne McA

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