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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 2020-2021, we are launching Year Two of the “Phonetic Name Initiative.”  Given the uncertainty of in-person learning, it is now more important than ever to build connections with your peers and properly learn how to pronounce their names to build community even while physically distanced.

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 have to teach people how to pronounce their name. This can result in an environment with a lack of trust and communicates 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? 

Virtually Learning Environments  

Given the transition to remote learning, online conferencing platforms like Zoom and Bluejeans are our most common way to conduct class. Both platforms offer up opportunities to change your displayed name and can easily include the phonetic pronunciation of your name. Please follow this quick guide to learn how to change your display name.

Faculty

Encourage your students to change their name to include their preferred pronunciation in virtual meetings. You can serve as a role model by also changing your name.

Everyone

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.

How can I learn more?

Contact Joana Dos Santos, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at joanads@umich.edu

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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