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Phonetic Name Initiative

What is the Phonetic Name Initiative?

Have you had to correct how people pronounce your name? Have you ever wondered how to pronounce someone’s name? Being able to pronounce someone’s name correctly is important in creating an inclusive environment. At Taubman College, we are working on an initiative to help bridge this gap. For the academic year 2019-2020 we are launching the “Phonetic Name Initiative” pilot. 

Why is it important?

Student’s socio-emotional well-being and world view are impacted by the way instructors and peers pronounce their names. Mispronunciation of someone’s name can lead them to shy away from their culture and families. In some cases, people prefer to Americanize or not use their name at all to avoid having to constantly having to teach people how to pronounce their name. This can result in an environment with lack of trust and communicates that disrespect.

This op-ed article, titled “Names That Are Unfamiliar to You Aren’t ‘Hard,’ They're ‘Unpracticed’” offers excellent insight into what it can feel like for someone with an unfamiliar name in American society today.

How do I participate? 


Pick up and fill out your name card from the DEI office in room 2150. Even if you think your name is “easy” to pronounce, pick one up anyway. This will show that you care about pronouncing people’s names correctly and solidarity for those who may have to struggle more with people learning to pronounce their name. When you go to class or studio, place the name care on top of your desk or seat for faculty and peers to see. Make an effort to utilize the name tags to learn the correct pronunciation of your peers’ names. 


Remind students to place their name cards on their desk during your class. You can request to have the members of the Phonetic Name Initiative visit your class or studio to help your students complete their name cards.


Make every effort to address students by their preferred name and follow the pronunciation they indicated. If you still make a mistake or are having trouble with the pronunciation, ask for help and be patient! We are all working hard to make everyone feel welcomed and included. 

We look forward to having 100% of students complete their name cards and we can do it with your help!

How can I learn more?

Contact Joana Dos Santos, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at joanads@umich.edu or Irene Hwang, Architecture Assistant Chair at ihwang@umich.edu. You can also find them in room 2150.

You can also check out Pronounce Names website (which now offers an Android app) or Voice of America's pronunciation guide to become familiar with how to pronounce any name.

For help in pronouncing Chinese names, you can check out this quick guide on pinyin pronunciation, literally 'spell out the sound'.  It is a system for romanizing Chinese ideograms, used in mainland China for Mandarin Chinese. 

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