Opinion | Lecturers ought to make the effort to pronounce their students’ names correctly


By Lowri Lewis, Opinion Columnist

Perhaps it’s because lecturers rotate students every few months, rather than every academic year, that they seem to make less of an effort to pronounce people’s names correctly than the teachers we had in school.  

Of course, I’m used to correcting people on the pronunciation of my name. But when I do this at University, it feels like many lecturers don’t even try to remember it.

Whilst my Welsh teachers would normally double check whether they’d used the correct pronunciation of my name, I’ve noticed that lecturers in England tend to simply guess the pronunciation and leave it at that. Some guess correctly, thankfully - but those who guess wrongly, and proceed to mispronounce my name in every seminar, leave me cringing internally every time I’m called on.

I’d expected, since I was moving from a country where my name is common to one in which it’s seen as unusual, to have to correct people on its pronunciation. But when I do, most lecturers forget what I’ve told them, and are calling me L-ah-oo-ree again by the next week.

It must be difficult to remember people’s names, especially uncommon ones, when the students that you teach change so often. But even in a pre-pandemic world, before online classes gave everyone name badges under their faces, that’s not much of an excuse. As I’ve just demonstrated, it’s perfectly easy to spell names phonetically. This can be noted next to names on a class list, to ensure that they’re pronounced right every time.

Of course, it can be argued that I should just be correcting lecturers every time they get my name wrong. However, as a result of their position of authority, calling them out every time feels almost like an act of insubordination. And, quite honestly, I’d rather not waste time in seminars by repeatedly going over the pronunciation of my name.

Anyone with a name that’s uncommon in England will know this feeling

But an uncomfortable consequence of mispronunciation, when it comes from lecturers, is that everyone else in the seminar group thinks that that is my name. When a lecturer fails to take the time to find out what it actually is, that means there’s now twenty other people who think that’s what I’m called.

The morale boost that I get on the rare occasions that everyone says my name right, because a lecturer asks me how to pronounce my name and remembers that going forward, must indicate that this plays an important role in ensuring that all students are comfortable in seminars.

Anyone with a name that’s uncommon in England will know this feeling, but I know that if you haven’t experienced it, it can seem like I’m overstating the significance of this. ‘What’s so great about people saying your name right?’ you might ask.

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I think it just shows that our feelings have been considered. Moreover, I don’t think that it’s a lot to ask of lecturers: respecting students enough to call us by our actual name, rather than one that they’ve decided to call us by.

That being said, I appreciate that the situation I find myself in when it comes to the pronunciation of my name is very different than that of those whose names are mispronounced not simply because of a lack of regard for their feelings, but as a result of discrimination, too. It is a privilege for this to just be an annoying part of life, rather than a microaggression.

Lecturers don’t seem to realise the extent to which something which can seem small to them, like the pronunciation of a name, can impact their students. It’s about time that they made an effort to ensure that students with less common names are comfortable in seminars, not wincing every time our name is said.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Jon Tyson

Do you find it irritating when lecturers mispronounce your name?