Students’ English Names

Students’ English names are a part of teaching ESL and you are expected to remember students’ names and it is difficult, particularly in Korea.

11817262_1490333987924506_7414661880305311750_nThey’re just not natural to us, not natural to the receptive membranes of our western ears. John, Michelle, Joe, Rebecca, those are easy to remember. Hyun Min, So Hui, Kyung Sook, Myung Un, not so much. Next, try remembering one of those names times 300, because that’s at least how many students you’ll have.

So what’s the easy solution to this? You’re an English teacher, so how about giving them English (western) names! That probably seems like the most logical and reasonable way to make your job easier.

This is an approach that some teachers love, while others don’t. Truth is there’s no right or wrong, and it’s totally up to you.

I actually made the attempt at giving English names to ALL my students in the beginning of the semester. I type “ALL” in capital letters because “ALL” means “ALL” 500 of them.

Think about that for a second. You have 500 kids who already have their own names, and now you’re going to give them 500 new names. So whether you give them English names or not, some effort will be required on your part to remember hundreds of new names.

Pro’s of English names

Giving English names is a good-natured idea for a few reasons. Outside of it being easier for you to remember, it also gives each student a new identity for that 40-45 mins while in English class.

If they take on this English-named persona, it can facilitate them understanding that this is the time they should also speak in English. Also, some of the students will take their new name to heart and identify with it for life.

When I had mine create their names, several told me they already had an English name that they loved. So it can definitely mean something to some students.

Con’s of English names

The flipside is that it’s not truly their real name, so there isn’t that same relation with it. It can be fun picking one in the beginning, but as the semester goes on, they may disregard it or take it more as a joke when you call on them or their friends.

There’s no doubt that students in South Korea, and even other Asian destinations such as Taiwan and China, will respond more promptly to their born-names than their English names.

But at the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong, and it’s all about how serious you manage it as the teacher. Everyone’s style is different, and historically, teachers have had success with both approaches. So see what works for you and go for it!

Have you ever had this issue? Do you have any funny tales or stories about the English names in your classrooms? Let us know in a comment below. 

Kenneth ParrisKenneth is a Travel and Teaching Blogger. Kenneth began his ESL teaching adventure in Prague, Czech Republic before his far east journey to the ROK (Republic of Korea), better known as, South Korea. You can call him an avid traveler or a dedicated teacher, but the title he’s most proud of is “Bonafide Foodie.” Always seeking the signature tastes of other cultures is a true passion, and he’s got pictures to prove it. Ultimately, however, Kenneth’s main goal is to share those real personal teaching and travel experiences that YOU can relate to. 

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