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La RED TIG Week: The Power of Names by Art Hernandez

Hi, I’m Art Hernandez and I’m a professor at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas.

Lessons Learned:

Have you ever been in a situation where someone mispronounces your name? It might seem like a small oversight, but the correct pronunciation of names holds significant importance when it comes to respect, courtesy, identity, power, prejudice, bias, and the reinforcement of stereotypes. How we pronounce someone’s name can either validate their identity or dismiss it entirely, reinforcing existing biases and perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

Names are not just a combination of sounds; they carry cultural and personal significance. They reflect our heritage, family history, and individuality. When someone takes the time to learn and pronounce our names correctly, it communicates that they value and respect us as individuals. On the other hand, mispronouncing or disregarding names sends a message of indifference, eroding the bonds of respect and understanding.

Correctly pronouncing names is an act of courtesy. It shows that we care enough to make an effort and acknowledge the importance of someone’s identity. When we take the time to learn and pronounce names correctly, we demonstrate that we value diversity and are willing to step outside our comfort zones to foster inclusivity.

Moreover, the correct pronunciation of names relates to power and positionality. Consider situations where people in positions of authority or influence mispronounce the names of individuals who hold less power or occupy marginalized positions. This act can be seen as an exercise of dominance, reinforcing existing power imbalances and perpetuating a sense of otherness. By pronouncing names correctly, those in positions of power can signal their commitment to equity and inclusivity, fostering a more respectful and inclusive environment.

Prejudice and bias often manifest themselves in the mispronunciation or dismissal of names. When we encounter unfamiliar or foreign names, we might inadvertently rely on stereotypes or biases to make assumptions about individuals. Mispronunciations can be a result of these biases, reflecting a lack of effort to understand and appreciate the cultural and linguistic diversity of others. By taking the time to learn and pronounce names correctly, we challenge our own biases and create opportunities for genuine connection and understanding.

The reinforcement of stereotypes is another consequence of mispronouncing names. It perpetuates the notion that individuals with non-traditional or foreign names are somehow different or lesser. This reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a climate of exclusion. When we make the effort to pronounce names correctly, we break down these barriers and demonstrate that diversity is not something to be feared but celebrated.

In our increasingly globalized world, where encounters with people from diverse backgrounds are commonplace, it is crucial to embrace the power of correct pronunciation. It is an opportunity to bridge gaps, promote understanding, and build stronger relationships. Pronouncing names correctly is not just about phonetics; it is about embracing the beauty of linguistic diversity and affirming the identities of those we interact with.

So, next time you come across a name that is unfamiliar to you, don’t shy away from asking for clarification or seeking guidance on its correct pronunciation. Embrace the opportunity to learn and grow. By doing so, you’ll foster an environment of respect, challenge biases, and contribute to a more inclusive and accepting society. A name is more than just a word; it is a representation of a person’s identity, and by pronouncing it correctly, we honor their story and existence.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Latina/o Responsive Evaluation Discourse TIG Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from LA RED Topical Interest Group members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

1 thought on “La RED TIG Week: The Power of Names by Art Hernandez”

  1. Truly appreciate your AEA365 post! This is a topic of conversation that surfaces sometimes among my international family and friends. What’s in a name? A lot!
    I echo all your sentiments, and underscore, “Names are not just a combination of sounds; they carry cultural and personal significance. They reflect our heritage, family history, and individuality.”

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