How do I pronounce these names?
July 17, 2009 11:23 AM   Subscribe

I've just got a hold of my class lists for next year and there are a few names that I'm not sure how to pronounce.

First Names:

posted by alby to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The usual teacher trick is "Forgive me if I mispronounce your name, please just tell me how to pronounce it before hand" Affords the student a chance to chime in too. You can drop a joke if you have a string of unusual names to butcher a common/easy name like "Mike Smith" just to releive the tension. GL
posted by stratastar at 11:25 AM on July 17, 2009

Something to remember: even if we give you a standard pronunciation, there's often differences in how people like their names to be pronounced. Some want Meg-un, some Mee-gun. Some people say my name Lor-ul, but I like Lah-rel. "Adeline" (which I usually hear pronounced "ADD-uh-lye-n") looks as though it could fall into that category.

So take name-pronunciation suggestions with a grain of salt.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:26 AM on July 17, 2009

You can have the first few minutes of the first class as a "get to know each other" time where the students say their names and what they have done over summer or what they expect to learn or whatever. The point being you get them to tell their names.
posted by JJ86 at 11:27 AM on July 17, 2009

Adeline is most likely "ADD-a-line." Dobrowolski is likely "Doe-bro-WALL-ski." And Rohr probably rhymes with "roar."

Seconding stratastar, though. Just apoligize in advance, and make sure you make phonetic notes and take note if the student wants to be called something other than his/her given name.
posted by cooker girl at 11:28 AM on July 17, 2009

Unless of course it is a 200 person lecture in which case you probably don't care about names anyway.
posted by JJ86 at 11:28 AM on July 17, 2009

Agree with stratastar - some families might pronounce their names differently than you'd expect. That, or a kid might have his or her own pronunciation or preferred nick name. Don't stress about it, kids are weird like that.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2009

if "sudeshi" came with a south asian sounding first name, my guess would be "soo-DTHESH-ee" with a heavy "th" sound to begin the second syllable
posted by anthropomorphic at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2009

Pronounce them like they're spelled. Most of these looks like you could just sound them out. I mean they're unfamiliar names but the letter combination in most of them aren't impossible to decipher. "MB" is an unual way to start a word in English, but you know the name Mbeki, right? Go from there (and note from there, that sounding it out would work just fine). Throw in a little knowledge of how letters are pronounced in some other languages and you'll do even better (e.g. on Dobrowolski) I would pronounce the W as a V and the S as SH.

And yes, tell students to correct you if you're wrong. No biggie.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:34 AM on July 17, 2009

Katarzyna = ka-tar-zheena, rhymes with katherina
Dobrowolski = dobro-volski
posted by ttyn at 11:38 AM on July 17, 2009

I had a principal named Rohrer and we always pronounced her name as roar-er so i'm assuming that the same would apply to Rohr, minus the er.
posted by QueenHawkeye at 11:47 AM on July 17, 2009

Katarzyna: Kat-a-SHIN-a
Dobrowolski: If it hasn't been anglicized it's pronounced Doe-bro-VOL-skee

The stress is on the syllables in capital letters.
posted by juva at 11:55 AM on July 17, 2009


The "rz" is like the sound made by the letters "si" in the middle of vision. The "y" is between the vowels in pit and put.


Here you'll have to ask. The "w" may be pronounced as a "v", like the first sound in "voice", and would be if in Poland. This changes when people move abroad; after many generations the pronunciation of the person's name may change. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, pronounces that first "w" as in the word "we".

I live in Poland and speak (some) Polish.
posted by mdonley at 11:56 AM on July 17, 2009

Sorry, ttyn, but that's not how Katarzyna is pronounced. The r isn't pronounced seperately, but combines with the z for a sound that doesn't exist in English (and that most English-speakers can't distinguish from something that's wrong and sounds awful to my ears). The closest way I can describe it is:


The most common diminutive of Katarzyna is Kasia, which is pronounced like Tasha with a K.

As someone with a name from this list (can you guess which one?), I'm pretty used to people butchering my name, and I mostly appreciate any effort to get it right. However, I do get annoyed when people insists on me saying my legal name for them (day-to-day, I use the diminutive, which is easy to pronounce for English speakers) or claims to be pronouncing it just like I did, which I can hear the mistake, even if they can't.
posted by capsizing at 11:57 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ignore any comment in this thread instructing you on how to pronounce these names.

Ask the kids themselves.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:06 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

You could always take attendance by going down the rows and have THEM say their names (along with the answer to some kind of "getting to know you" icebreaker question like "if you were an animal, what would it be?"). All you have to do is cross them off the list.
posted by aquafortis at 12:11 PM on July 17, 2009

Just to back up room317's point, I've had several friends/acquaintances with the name 'Dobrolowsky' and they all pronounce it differently:


You probably need to ask just for all the throatwarbler mangroves out there.
posted by corprew at 12:15 PM on July 17, 2009

I run into this in ESL classes all the time. Don't guess; they're the experts here. Just ask.
posted by Ladybug Parade at 12:21 PM on July 17, 2009

Depends on the size of the class, but for my college classes, I pass out index cards and have students (1) write their name; (2) write what they want me to call them and how it's pronounced (and sometimes some other stuff). This way, I know how to pronounce their first names, and I catch the kids named Christopher who everyone calls Bud (to take a recent example).

As an added advantage, I can use the index cards to call randomly on people during the semester!
posted by leahwrenn at 12:33 PM on July 17, 2009

In Australia, we'd call em Olly, Sue, Addie, Bongsta, Kat, Dobsta (or Wally), Addo, Sillysausage, Roar, Mangsta and Mirro.
Seriously though, I've trained hundreds of customers over the years and have had to rollcall some really wack names used to work with a guy named Manivannan Thirunavukkarasu - nobody minds if you give it your best crack, because it's really not like you'll be the first person most of them will have encountered who's struggled with pronunciation.
posted by tra at 12:47 PM on July 17, 2009

There was a girl named Katarzyna on America's Next Top Model, skip to 3:20 in this video for some clips of how she pronounces it, and also the various ways to mispronounce it.
posted by illenion at 1:02 PM on July 17, 2009

Like leahwrenn, I also use notecards, but only after students have introduced themselves verbally. I make note of how they pronounced their name on my class list and later ask them to write their preferred name and some sort of recognizable fact about themselves on their card (what I ask them changes from semester to semester). That association helps me learn their names faster since I use the cards to take attendance. I also use them to call on students throughout the semester if participation is lagging or to randomly put them in groups.
posted by BlooPen at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2009

The best move is always, on the first day, to ask the students to introduce themselves so you know how to pronounce their names.

I mean, you never know if an "Andrea" is "ANN-dree-ah" or "ahn-DRAY-ah", for instance, without hearing them say it themselves.

Similarly, I went to school with three people named "LaCroix"--one pronounced it "La KROY", one pronounced it "La KROSS", and one pronounced it as you would in French. Is "Levine" "luh-VEEN" or "luh-VINE"? I know a couple of each.

posted by Sidhedevil at 2:33 PM on July 17, 2009

If you're doing a roll call, you could pass out a sheet with their names on it and the date and have them sign it. Saves butchering the name every week.
posted by b33j at 2:48 PM on July 17, 2009

"Hi there, everyone. I like to make sure I'm pronouncing names correctly. Please take a 3 x 5 card from the table. Please write your name on it. Underneath, please write a phonetic spelling of your name."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:03 PM on July 17, 2009

I remember my high school math class where the teacher called roll on the first day. In a row he hit
Levin (le VIN, not LEV in)
Levine (le VINE)
Levine (le VEEN)

When he saw the next two on the list were
Lowenstein and

he gave up and just ask which of you is the Low-en-STEEN and which is the Low-en-STINE. Turns out they were twin sisters (both Low-en-STEEN).
posted by metahawk at 3:25 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

All I have to add is my sympathies. I had the following in a class one semester:



My response was:

"I'd like to buy a vowel, Pat."
posted by lleachie at 4:13 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm nthing not worrying about mispronouncing names. The students won't be surprised or offended (at first...). But for a head start, Mbongeni is probably prounounced close to "bow-geh-nee" with a hard g. It looks like a Kiswahili (ish) name, and it's really, really difficult for native English speakers to pronounce the mb and ng combos correctly.
posted by shrabster at 5:14 PM on July 17, 2009

Ignore any comment in this thread instructing you on how to pronounce these names.
Ask the kids themselves.

This is what I came in here to say. You people who know Polish or have a relative with a similar name or whatever are missing the point. You do not know how these students say their names. The only people who do are the students themselves.
posted by languagehat at 7:11 AM on July 18, 2009

A lot of kids feel uncomfortable correcting the teacher on the first day. Some feel really shy about speaking up at all. When I taught, I eventually figured out what should have been obvious -- ask each student to say his/her name, even if it's an "easy" one.
posted by wryly at 1:02 PM on July 19, 2009

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