What does your name mean?
Our names play an important role in our lives. They can tell the world a lot about our identity, as well as our cultural and familial background.
Making an effort to pronounce a person's name serves as a sign of respect.
It's important to respectfully ask someone about the correct pronunciation of their name!
Keep It Short
When asking someone how to pronounce their name, avoid making unnecessary comments.
Talking about how unfamiliar you are with the pronunciation of their name can be hurtful. Avoid saying things like:
Your name is so exotic/strange/complicated!
I'm really trying — it's just that your name is really difficult!
Ask And Listen
When you meet a person for the first time, kindly ask for the pronunciation of their name. This will hopefully avoid awkward future interactions.
To ask the person for the pronunciation of their name, try using this prompt:
I want to make sure that I say your name correctly. Could you pronounce your name for me, please?
If you didn't catch it the first time, politely ask them one more time. Make as many honest attempts as you can. Afterward, try asking: "Did I get the pronunciation right?"
But make sure not to drag on the conversation for too long.
Write It Down
To help you recall the pronunciation of a person's name, note the following on your phone or a sticky note you can easily access:
phonetic spelling of their name
key or rhyming words that could help with remembering the pronunciation
Look It Up
Are you are still having a hard time pronouncing the person's name? Search for the pronunciation online.
While it may not be familiar to you, their name can be pretty common in the language it originated from.
Try looking the name up on Youtube or Forvo to help you get a better grasp of the pronunciation.
Because people can have varying pronunciations to the same name, remember that this tip can't replace asking them directly.
Things NOT To Do
Saying something like, "Can I just call you [ ] instead?" It's understandable if you can't pronounce a person's name perfectly on the first try, but don't assume you can call them a nickname you came up with.
Joking around. When they're pronouncing their name for you, avoid making jokes or faces. Try your best to listen attentively.
Assuming everyone is the same. Everyone has a different experience with other people asking for the pronunciation of their name.
As a mentor, Ken guides new employees through their first week on the job. When reviewing the list of the company's newest employees, they see a name they didn't recognize: Hyoyeon.
When meeting Hyoyeon for the first time, Ken politely asks for the pronunciation of her name. However, Ken still feels like they haven't fully mastered it yet.
What should Ken do?
A. Try to laugh off the awkward situation by joking about how difficult Hyoyeon's name is to pronounce
B. Call her Becky because she reminds them of their great aunt Beck
C. Avoid calling Hyoyeon by name because they'll never be able to properly pronounce it anyway
D. Politely ask Hyoyeon to pronounce her name again and type down the phonetic spelling of her name on their phone's notes app
Pick the appropriate letter in explanations above.
In the end, what truly matters is to show genuine effort to learn someone's name and pronounce it correctly. This is a great step towards promoting respect and inclusion.