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? Correctly pronouncing someone’s name is important in creating an inclusive environment. Through the “Phonetic Name Initiative,” Taubman College aims to build connections with colleagues and community members by learning how people pronounce their names the way they prefer. We want to build community, whether in person or physically distanced.

Why is it important?

How instructors and peers pronounce their names impact students’ socio-emotional well-being and worldview. 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 to avoid constantly having to teach people how to pronounce their name. This can result in an environment with a lack of trust and communicates disrespect. Faculty and staff are also affected by this.

The op-ed article “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?

There are several ways to participate in the Phonetic Name Initiative. Check out the PNI Guide to learn more about participating virtually and in person.

How can I learn more?

Check out Pronounce Names website (which now offers an Android app) or Voice of America’s pronunciation guide to become familiar with pronouncing any name.

For help 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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