When I was around eight years old, I came running home from school one day and excitedly told my mother that I’d been given a new name at school. We lived in England at the time and my friends had told me that my name “Sunaina” was too hard to say so they were going to call me “Sue”.

My mother listened patiently as she (almost) always does and then gently shared words that stay with me to this day. “Sunaina” she said. “Sunaina, your name is Sunaina. It is an Indian name, you are from India, never ever forget that”.

Not only have I never forgotten I’m from India but from that day, I’ve also always asked that people use my given name and offered pronunciation help to those I see struggling. More importantly though, I do my very best to respect other people’s names and I see what a positive impact this has on establishing a rapport and building relationships.

When I came across this Ted Talk article on how to recover from a name mispronunciation, I was intrigued. I was struck between the parallels and the differences between my own experience and the author’s. Mostly though, I was taken by the ideas the author offers on how to address and correct a situation that occurs more often than it should.

How have you handled this type of situation? What’s worked and, what hasn’t?

4 thoughts on “My Name is Sunaina

  1. I can relate to this. When I was a young girl, I wished I had a more common name. I would be embarrassed when my name was mispronounced and didn’t know how to handle the awkwardness. As I grew older, I realized it was better to let people know right away the proper way to say my name. I often give them something to relate to so they can remember the next time we meet, such as: “My name is pronounced Tanna, like the end of Montana.”

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  2. Most everyone in the BAS-AM program knows me as Skye, however Skye is my middle name .For years I have shyed away from using my first name because it’s hard to pronounce for others.My first name is Aynslie, I have realized that it is a beautiful name, and despite being hard to pronounce it is part of who I am.In instances where my name is mispronounced or spelled wrong, I have figured out that gently pronouncing it for the other person and telling them its meaning or background helps with the awkwardness.

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