Names, Names, Names

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley
A. Reasons to Have TL Names for FL Students
B. Having TL Names May Not Be Such a Good Idea
C. Ways to Get to Know Student Names
D. Name Experiences (Enjoy!)
E. Some Sources for Names
F. FLT responds to a Query About Names (Alter-Ego)

A. Reasons to Have TL Names for FL Students

96/08 From-> Gene Foldenauer <>
Subject: Names and other stuff

I have a number of phone books that I have collected on my travels and
let the students choose their own names, with guidance when necessary.
They choose not only first names but also two last names. They start the
year by signing their names with three Spanish names and their English
last name. As I get to know them better they start using the initial of
their English last names and later in the year they drop any reference
to their English last name and use only their 3 Spanish names. I believe
that it helps the bring culture and language to life in the classroom
and in some small way increases their sensitivity to all the Pedro,
Maria, Joaquins, and Estebans in the world, which certainly should be
one of our goals in Foreign Language instruction.

Gene Foldenauer


96/08 From-> Lisa Nocita <>
Subject: selecting names

I do let students choose names in my Spanish classes. Many of my
students ask to do so. No one is forced to choose another name, however.
I allow my students to choose names for several of the reasons that have
already been listed by the name advocates on the list as well as for one
other important reason. I believe that it can help a recalcitrant
learner if they can shed their own identity for awhile and assume a new
identity for 50 minutes.

It lowers the affective filter for some of the kids who are uneasy about
speaking in front of a group. This is my theory anyway. I am a somewhat
shy person myself, and yet, I have never had an uneasy or nervous
moment as "the teacher." I step into my "role" as Señora and can be wild,
silly, dramatic, serious, etc. with relative ease. I would never march
around a room singing the alphabet loudly and off-key under normal
circumstances, but I feel compelled to do so in my classroom and the
kids love it.   :-)



96/08 From-> Michelle Moyer <>
Subject: Re: selecting names

The one comment I want to add to this debate--and I don't have anyone's
post to quote from--was the idea that choosing Spanish names is
"childish." Yeah, okay. So are these other activities my kids love--and
*learn from*:

--singing the alphabet
--drawing pictures to illustrate their writing (I can then use the
pictures, without the writing, to start discussions)
--playing bingo when we learn numbers
--putting the appropriate "weather report" (in Spanish) on the calendar
--pretending to go shopping for groceries, clothes, etc.
--playing Simon Says
--and so on...

In my last classroom, we had a bunch of toys stored in my cabinets
(belonging to the kindergarten in that K-12 school). We used Mr.
Potatohead when we learned body parts; my Spanish III kids used plastic
telephones when we worked on telephone etiquette; even my oh-so-jaded
Spanish II class one year was thrilled with the idea of doing a puppet
show for the eighth grade Spanish classes. I had my students write a
"composition" each year telling what they liked best/least about the
year--most of them liked the games, toys, etc. And they did learn
Spanish--a *lot* of Spanish. (And, as one super-cool, "I'm *way* too
mature for twelfth grade" senior wrote (translated): "This is the one
class where it's OK to play games. We have an excuse--we're learning
'baby stuff' like colors and numbers!"

Obviously, if the teacher doesn't like these activities, that attitude
will be obvious to the kids, and no one will have a good time *or* learn
very much. But some things that seem "childish" are fun for the kids
*and* are great ways to get them using the language. I'm not saying you
have to use them...but don't dismiss them!

Michelle Moyer


96/08 From-> Ken Reed <>
Subject: Re: selecting names

>From a purely practical standpoint it may be easier for students to
master the sounds of the language if the don't have to constantly
 interrupt their concentration on correct target-language pronunciation
with so many English names. All the drills we use in the beginning
emphasize communication:

T: Guten Tag!     [Hello!
S1: Tag!     Hi!
T: Wie heisst du?    What’s your name?
S1: Ich heisse Theron.    My name’s Theron.
T: Und der Junge da, wie heisst er?  And the fellow there, what’s his
S1: Wie heisst du?    What is your name?
S2: Ich heisse George.    My name’s George.
S1: Er heisst George.    His name is George.]

The consonant sounds represented by "th", "r" and "g" in these two
English names don't even exist in German. That's why I prefer not to
have students practice them in class. There is also the consideration
that the acquisition of good pronunciation skills may be hampered by
having students regularly utter English names that sound similar to
their target language counterparts. For example, the English versions of
German names such as Klara, Thomas, Kaethe, Elisabeth and Peter would be
close enough to cause native-language interference. And there are
countless near-misses that we can name for Spanish, French, and other
modern western languages.

Even for near-native speakers this back-and-forth between the target
language and their own native language sounds can be tricky. I see the
logic in having students choose typical names from the target culture
that reinforce the sounds of the language. I've gone both routes, and I
prefer the "name game". What harm can it do to have students practice as
many target-language sounds as possible. After all, we only have them
for a short time each day. They will hear their own names often enough
during the hours outside of class.

Ken Reed


97/06 From-> Anne Fontaine <>
Subject: assigning French names to kids

The kids love to have new names; they may even acquire new personalities
and identities in their own minds. If one want's a beginning French
student to learn to speak French with little accent and some fluency,
it's much better to learn “Bonjour, je m'appelle Christophe” than to say
“Je m'appelle Josh.”

Anne Fontaine


97/06 From-> Michael Kundrat <>
Subject:  assigning French names

I've always encouraged the students to choose a name, but never forced
them. Most do, many take their equivalent name, and a few don't(yes,
they'd rather stick with the name they were already "assigned"). They in
turn always seem to have liked the choice. We've all had fun with it,
even when we only had a list of 50 names from which to pick.

I don't concern myself too much with getting all those new names down. I
figure if I'm expecting them to learn a few hundred vocabulary items, I
ought to be able to handle it. I don't worry about the pronunciation
either. That will come or it won't...we'll all do what we can. What I do
want to do is increase the "fun factor" as much as I can...this seems to

Michael Kundrat
Who also answers to Miguel and Michel
And who knows a rose is still a rose...


97/06 From->  Walsh Cindy <>
Subject: Re: assigning French names to kids

Hi,  My French 2 class this year was very excited about choosing French
for themselves--some even looked through the credits of the textbook and
found middle and last names!  We had fun with them.  I had tried it with
my Spanish classes last year but they weren't too keen on the idea, so I
didn't attempt it this year.

I write their real names and their chosen French name in my grade book
and on my list for substitutes.  They had fun with it.  I had Chantal Marie
Duval,Antoinette, Danielle, Dominique, etc.  When I was student teaching,
one girl even chose Marie Antoinette!  Maybe they enjoyed it so much
because they chose the names and I let them add on later when they found
middle and lastnames.  Even the boys chose names such as Bruno,
Christophe and Thomas.

I will miss this class.  They were a pleasure to work with all the time.

Cindy Walsh


97/06 From-> Lois Sabino <>
Subject: Re: assigning French names

For students who don't want a foreign language name, I at least
pronounce their English name with an accent.  It's OK to respect this
wish from them. It's unfortunate , however, if some are refusing because
it seems to be a peer thing.  When some kids are seniors it's sad that
they won't have this special identity anymore.  It's a special
relationship between the student and foreign language teacher.  Just
today I saw an "Ushie" license plate in town.  I had a student with that
German 6-7 years ago, and I really wanted to stop the driver and see if
it was her.  She was a fun student.


97/09 From-> Judith Nixon <>
Subject: Re: names

I teach in a small, Midwestern town. For me, giving a "foreign name" for
Spanish class is a case of letting students know that the world does not
revolve around English ( at least not all of the time in all places). I
want them to know that there are other ways to say the same thing, even
given names. I try to get them to take names that are "translations" of
their own, but with names such as "Jennifer" and "Tiffany" that is

We talk about how Spanish speaking people would pronounce a given name
and what questions they might encounter about a name (Dakota, why are
you named after a state?). We also talk about how to tell a
Spanish-speaking person what the Spanish equivalent for your name might
be. Students take the names of people they admire (Selena, Cesar,
Julio). Students who have never liked their given names are given a
chance to choose a new one.

Those who truly protest (one or two in 10 years) are allowed to keep
their "real" names but I pronounce it as a Spanish-speaker would. In my
Japanese class, we use last name, pronounced in Japanese, because as
travelers in Japan, this is what they will encounter (as adults). I
truly do not believe that this practice traumatizes students, nor does
it endanger their self identity. In fact, I see them calling each other
by their Spanish names in the halls. When they come back to visit after
graduation, they introduce themselves by their classroom names.
("Remember me? Juan Valdez Smith?")

My more advanced students who have learned about nicknames begin to call
themselves such interesting names as "El Santo", "El Uno", "Flaco" and
"La Loca". I guess it's a case of everyone to his own tastes, but don't
berate those of us who choose to do it. I have yet to have a student
come back to me and say that I stunted his psychological growth by
asking him to take a Spanish name.  On the contrary, they have thanked
me for opening their minds to new worlds.

Judith Nixon


97/09 From-> Becky Post <cen08907@CENTURYINTER.NET>
Subject: Re: names

I used to not like the idea of giving students different names until
someone explained to me that there really is a good reason for it if
they are learning Russian. Russian names decline. So, if I want you to
give something to Oleg, I'll say "Give it 'Olegu'," and if it is Oleg's
book, I'll say, "That is the book "Olega.'" Foreign names do not usually
change. Therefore, if you want your class to have lots of practice with
this, better to have them use Russian names.

Becky Post


97/09 From-> Michelle Moyer <>
Subject: Re: names

>believe it or not, they relish in having a "chic sounding name". They
use it with each other all the time! And if I slip up and call them their "English"
name, they always correct me, "non Madame, c'est anglais. Je m'appelle Luc."

My kids love it too. I let them select their own names from a list (I've
got more than one list, so that I don't end up with a Juan and a Maria
in every period), and many of them really like their names--and insist
that I use them when I talk to the kids in the hall, the lunch room,

Basically, that's why I give Spanish names. I'm not firmly attached to
the idea, but as long as the kids (or at least 90-95 % of them) really
like it, I'm going to continue using it. Letting them pick their names
means that they don't assume that their names would be automatically
changed if they went to a Spanish-speaking country, too.

>And many of the names (Jecolah / Tommeikia, Tyenisalla, Marecca,
Cvett, etc) don't really flow with the matter what kind of
accent you say it with.

Uh-huh. This is why I don't try to match Spanish and English names, tell me what the Spanish equivalents of Offeiyon and
Tiebetibasi are, and I'll start assigning names.

Michelle Moyer


97/09 From-> Anna <>
Subject: Re: names

A couple of years ago I enrolled in an immersion class and one of the
requirements was to take on a persona. Even though I am Mexican-American
and my name is "translatable", the instructor still wanted me to take on
a name that was not mine, so I became Maite (stress on second syllable).
My classmates all took names that did not translate. The idea was to
"become" a member of a Spanish speaking family. Most of my classmates
were not native speakers but they found this to be a useful tool. We
created a family history, along with problems.

Having a different name allowed us to get into the mind set of working
in Spanish.

Just my dos centavos.

Anna Damiens


97/09 From-> Tara Stace <>
Subject: Re: names

Regarding giving Spanish names...

I never give them a name, I just tell them they have to pick a Spanish
name, any name they want. I think it is better for them to choose. But
last night at open house I had a parent ask me why I did not translate
the students names to Spanish. I told her I thought giving the students
a choice of names was important.

Tara Stace


97/09 From-> "Florence B. Maloy" <>
Subject: Re: names

I decided to let students individually decide if they wanted to adopt a
Spanish name or not in my little Catholic hs. Most are adopting them
this week, so I am adding them to the seating chart and requiring them
to use them on everything. Those who did not want another name feel
very comfortable with this, so everyone's stress level is ok.

Of course, with 140 Spanish 1 students, now I will have quite a few more
to learn but that is fine with me if they are having more fun with their
new names. I am having great success with them addressing me in Spanish
in the halls, before and after school, so I decided to let them choose a
name too.

Saludos a todos, Florencia

Florence B. Maloy


97/09 From-> Liz Klem <>
Subject: Re: names

<< What if the kids don't enjoy it? In the post referred to earlier, it
would seem that the name assignment DID cause "harm" (upset mother). If
the kids think is fun, OK, but when it causes a reaction so severe as to
provoke a parent to such a degree that there would be a telephone call
to protest, I don't see the point in it. >>

The few times that I have had students refusing to take a "name" I
simply call them Señor "X" or Señorita "X". It seems to be okay. Most
kids have wanted to pick out a name--enjoy it or don't really care but
there's no point in fighting. In my experience those who don't want a
name are often those who want nothing to do with the class/language
(whatever) and end up leaving us.

But a few have been content to be Sr/Srta all year. No problem for me.
I do have several lists of real names (one day I'll put them all
together--oh sure) and let them choose any name they want, just not a
phony name like Burrito or Feo etc. And we don't do Cheech or Chong
either. I think naming is a fairly innocent practice and most kids
usually can't wait until they get theirs every year! Some plan their
name for the next year months in advance. But if it bothers the kids or
the teacher, just skip it.

In the case mentioned above there seems to be lack of understanding on
the part of the mom and certainly lack of communication between the mom
and daughter. We can't always overcome that. We're "just the teachers."
(don't take that the wrong way!)

Liz Klem


97/09 From-> Vanessa Peterson <>
Subject: Re: names

Here's a twist for your name debate. I do assign Spanish names unless
the student expresses an objection. What I find is that a lot of the
kids become attached to their Spanish name. For example, I had one
student from my last year's classes assigned to another teacher this
year before a schedule change put him back in my class. He was totally
indignant that this teacher has given him a different Spanish name. The
first thing he said on coming into my room was "Good, now I can be
Salvador again." After class he stayed to ask me why in the world this
other teacher had "changed his name", even when he insisted that he was
Salvador. This is not the first time that a student has informed me,
unhappily, that his/her Spanish name has been changed.

I don't want to get in to a debate on role playing and personality
adjustments, etc. My kids seem to have fun with the names, and I'd
rather use a real Spanish name than mispronounce their English names to
stay within the Spanish sound system, or to constantly call them
Señor/Señorita. To each his/her own.

Vanessa Peterson


97/09 From-> Veronica Dees <>
Subject: Re: names

Having taught students of all ages, from preschool to adults, I have
found that there is little difference in the manner that students
approach the "name game." Some want it. Some don't. The bottom line is
it's a teaching tool. It may be the only opportunity that my students
are exposed to another culture. Even though it may not be authentic,
it's still exposure.

Veronica Dees


97/09 From-> "Helen V. Jones" <>
Subject: Re: names

I don't force Spanish names on my students. I refer the class to the
list at the begining of the Spanish textbook and invite them to pick one
if they wish.

Many ask for names the first day. But many say, "No way!" What I have
found is that generally by the end of the first week, they, too, will
ask to be given a Spanish name, too. Seems they don't want to be left
out of the fun. So much of what we do seems like make-believe anyway,
having another name is just part of it.

Adolescents fear being ridiculed. For most of our non-risk-takers just
making those strange sounds we expect of them is threatening enough. In
most of their classes they have sat passively and haven't had to perform
as we require them to. Once they see that this unfamiliar, "foreign"
environment doesn't threaten their identities, most come around and join

Helen Jones


97/09 From-> Gene Foldenauer <>
Subject: names, & why we teach

First let me say again that teaching is about kids, not the teacher and
that foreign language study is first and foremost about people.
Sometimes we get so hung up on language issues that we forget about
what really matters most.

I doubt that many of us would realistically expect that many of our
students, (even the "stars"), will actively retain a large percentage of
what they are taught. The majority of our kids will not go into a
foreign language related career and will move on with their lives after
they leave us. While it would be ideal if they were to remember each
vocab. word, grammatical point ect., we all know that they won't. What
then, can we expect them to "take" from us as they go out into the real
world?? Isn't one of our major objectives as educators to get kids ready
for life??? I would hope that as kids finish their 3, 4,5 year sequence
with us that they have developed a greater sensitivity towards others,
both at home and abroad. That they also might be able to communicate in
another language is icing on the cake.

I explain to the kids that in my class I would like them to have 3
Spanish names of their choice. I don't understand why a teacher would
chose a student's name for them, unless it were done to make the
teacher's life easier in some way. I explain to them the Hispanic system
of names. I tell them of the class that I taught for local industry in
which several people said that they had been calling clients by the
wrong last name for some time. They always wondered way they were given
such a strange look afterwards. Also, I tell them of being called to the
police station to translate and the police would check for priors under
the wrong last name. I explain to them the cultural confusion that had
taken place on my first trip to Mexico when I when to my hotel and I had
no room. They had me registered under my middle name and not my last.
And the stories go on.

Although I cannot quote scientific research, I hope that in some little
way my students will be more accepting and understanding of somebody
named Juan, María, Jose, González, García or Biard-Junco because they
had friends with those names while in school. Real people with whom they
could identify.

While we all have fragile kids the vast majority of them do not break.
To make a blanket statement indicating that in some way a kid's self
esteem/ image is damaged by the practice of giving names is to
underestimate their strength. There are many things we can do everyday
in the classroom which either build up or tear down a student. If we
communicate, develop rapport and really remember that kids are really
people too our classrooms will be a safe haven in which our kids can
develop both as students and young adults.

Caramba! This was my longest contribution to FLTEACH!!! I'd better go
out and continue mowing the lawn. Have a good week!

Gene Foldenauer


97/09 From-> Bob Peckham <bobp@utm.EdU>
Subject: names

I think Gene has given us an interesting and perhaps valuable insight
about culturally appropriate names in class (I do also agree not to use
"feo", etc.). The idea that using a name like Juan with classmates, whom
we know and with whom we associate, may help us when we meet a person
with this name, so that we are used to dealing without general cultural
prejudice and so that the differentness of the name does not magnify the
otherness of the culture out of proportion. A cheer for Gene!

Ya dun gawn an learned me sumthin'!!



97/09 From-> Melita Sperling <>
Subject: Re: names

I'm entering the discussion kind of late. I hope this will help.  I
could relate to your needing an explanation for why someone should go
from Jose' to Joseph.

One of my ESL students, José Martín R. (similar to the famous hero,
but with a different last name), remains Jose' to us and friends who
know him well. However, he adopted Joseph after several years of living
and working in this country. English name requires English
pronunciation. Spanish name, Spanish pronunciation. You'd be surprised
how often his name was mispronounced! He was called JOE-SEE, JOE'S,
JOSIE (a female name) and what-not.

Adopting his English name was not a sell-out. It helped in his
adaptation to a new culture and English-speaking world and it brought
greater tolerance, popularity and acceptance. It meant he could make it
in a predominantly English-speaking environment. Like it or not, he was
accepted as an equal rather than a puzzlement. It added to rather than
lessened the prestige value of his English, whether or not it was
pronounced like a native. Being one of my students, I should know! I was
on his case for the longest time about spelling, capitalization and
punctuation and lengthy, Spanish-styled sentences written in English
without paragraphs and phrasing, until I learned better from my

Certain English names are just as difficult to pronounce and create
bafflement to native Spanish-speakers. Se la vie! Pardon my French.
What's the saying, when in Rome do as the Romans do. However, I also
maintain the variety and distinctiveness of our names across languages
as something to cherish. What's that, a quote from Shakespeare is it? A
rose by any other name will smell as sweet?! Nonsense, it smells sweeter
and looks all the more beautiful when it's name has a familiar ring to

Melita Sperling


97/09 From-> Melita Sperling <>
Subject: Re: names

Anna wrote:

>Having a different name allowed us to get into the mind set of
working in Spanish.

Precisely, Anna! It frees students from certain language expectations
built in to using their English names (if e.g., Spanish is being
taught!) and helps them to be better role-players in the new language.

Melita Sperling


97/09 From-> mary ricks <mricks@EROLS.COM>
Subject: Names--again

>I feel somewhat confused about the topic of "names." I teach English as
a second language in Puerto Rico. I have NEVER thought of giving my
student any other name but the one they were christened with. In fact,
I emphasize that if their name is Jose, it remains Jose even if they live in
China. Can someone explain to me, why should we go from Jose to
Joseph just because we got on a plane and traveled to another country?
Is this something that is taught at the education colleges or did
someone write about

In response to this I can only add MY perspective. I think we all have
our own personalities which we contribute to our classes--some may be
more formal with kids; some may teach younger kids that prefer more
childlike instruction. I teach 13 year olds mostly and they are still
children trying to flow into a grown up body. I find that they ALL love
to get new names just as much as they ALL seem to enjoy learning a new
language for the first time--at the beginning of each year. When I
announce at the first few days that we will all have a Spanish/French
name, smiles immediately come on faces. There may be some who do not
like their names but that can be worked around. IF there is a major
problem for them I have no hesitation to change it and think we need to
be flexible in this regard. BUT I do feel that the foreign language
learning environment is more REAL when REAL foreign names can be used
within the classroom--be it Señor X or Juan--IMHO.

Mary Ricks


97/09 From-> "Bunn, Ramona J" <bunnrj@JMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Names--again

>>I have NEVER thought of giving my student any other name but the
one they were christened with.

>I have wondered about the practice of giving target language names to
students also. Since I am a student training to become a teacher I asked
my methods professor the benefit or reasoning behind this practice. I'll
share her answer with you and add my feelings about it too.

>My professor said that it helps to not break the flow of the target
language by using the "American" name as you speak the target language
and call on students for participation. From personal experience it is
difficult to understand or learn a language when you listen for one language
and a different one is used in the middle. You expected to here the target
language and are thrown off when an out of place sound or word pops up.

In reality a name does not translate into another language. Yes,
sometimes it may have an equivalent but it really isn't a translation. I
went through this when I lived in Costa Rica and Panama. I was always
asked how to pronounce my name (Ramona) in English. Of course it is the
same in English and Spanish except for the roll of the r. Yes it may
sound a little different but it's still the same name. I didn't consider
it being butchered as someone else stated in a reply to this. I just
accepted it as my name in that language. I presently work with deaf
students and my name has many pronunciations at work depending on the
vocal skill of the student or staff. We should not be offended if
someone is trying their best.

I too identify with it being hard to pronounce some names in another
language. My last name Bunn was always pronounced Boone. I was asked
many times if I was related to Daniel Boone. We can always help someone
learn to pronounce it the best they can.

As I prepare to become a foreign language teacher, giving the students a
target language name is a practice I will be using. I agree with my
professor, I feel it will help to teach some of the cultural aspects of
the language. Teaching a foreign language is not just teaching grammar,
reading and writing. It includes a lot more: culture, literature,
history, etc. I feel if we give them "native" or target language names
it will help the students to identify more with the language and maybe
help keep them focused and motivated in the classroom. Wouldn't you
remember the name of an author or person from history if they had the
same name as you? Just a thought.

Bunn, Ramona J


97/09 From-> Ceil Trowbridge <>
Subject: Names in the target language (longish)

I, too, (in most cases) use Spanish first names with my students, as do
most of the FL teachers that I know. I choose to do so because:

1) Most of my students really like to choose a name. In fact, perhaps
the most frequently asked question on the first day of classes is "When
do we get to choose a Spanish name?"

2) BEFORE my students choose a name, we go through a fairly extensive
list. Prior to this, they have learned a little about the vowel sounds
in Spanish, so this list of names gives a lot of reinforcement and
pronunciation practice  They also get some of their first experience at
looking for cognates.

We also discuss the cultural significance of the many names with
religious roots that show up on the list (Rosario, Mercedes, Dolores,
Inmaculada, Concepción, Salvador, Jesús, Juan de Dios, Guadalupe,
etc.) As I'm sure all Spanish teachers can attest, "Jesús" stimulates
the most discussion...though I also comment on how its use as a name
seems to vary a little according to country--I've met several men named
Jesús from Spain and Mexico, but never one from Chile.

I also tell them how people with the most common names, (Juan, Jose',
Ana, and María) FREQUENTLY are called either by their second name or by
both names (José Luis, María Cristina, Juan Pablo, etc.); and that
sometimes all the girls in a given family may have the same first name
of MARIA (in which case their family usually would address them only by
their middle name). This particular fact comes in handy when the first
girl picks Mercedes and I hear an "OHHH, darn it. I wanted that name."
Then we get a María Mercedes. Finally, we also talk about the tradition
of passing down the father's and mother's names to the oldest male and
female children--something that obviously also happens in U.S. culture,
especially for the father's name (I don't explain the two last name bit
which eliminates the need for "Jr." until later in the year...)

3) After all that, my students can choose a Spanish name IF THEY WISH.
If a student prefers to keep his/her own name (generally only 2 or 3
choose to do so), they can. I do, though, pronounce it as would someone
who didn't know English. After having lived almost 3 years in South
America, I find that such pronunciation is also culturally valid.
Hearing my Chilean friends try to pronounce my name (CEIL) when they
would first see it was pretty comical...they were very pleased to learn
I would happily answer to Ceci. One family of friends does prefer to
say  Ceil", but even after 15 yrs.+, it still comes out "Cil" (spanish
i). I encourage students to
choose, when possible, the Spanish equivalent of their own name (those
students get first choice...), but some really want to try something new
and some names don't have a Spanish equivalent (which also leads to a
discussion of names in Spanish that don't have an English equivalent).

Finally, almost everyone experiences some name changes throughout
life... I was Ceil Ann when I was a child (and still am to most of my
aunts, uncles, and cousins!) and am Ceil as an adult. To my friends in
South America I'm Ceci, Cecilia, Gringa, or Gringuita. Is it really so
much different to have a FL name in a FL class?

Ceil Trowbridge


97/10 From-> "Sherman, Rebecca C" <shermarc@JMU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Names--again

As far as giving students new names from the target culture, I think
that it is a great idea. It can even help them with correciation of
vowels, because they will hopefully hear their names frequently. I also
think that is fun and interesting to be someone new for a change. If a
student did not want to change their name, I would not make them,
however I think it is an excellent way to get the students more involved
in the culture that they are studying.

Rebecca Sherman


97/10 From-> Colleen Coram <>
Subject: Re: Names--again

My students (8th grade) take Spanish names . . . they get to select
which name they want. I find that they can sometimes do or say things as
"Felipe" that they can't do as Ralph. They love the idea . . . some will
decide to use a name similar to theirs if possible, others will select
something entirely different . . . my challenge is always to remember
both names!

Colleen Coram

B. Having TL Names May Not Be Such a Good Idea

97/09 From-> jcfjr <>
Subject: Re: names

>The few times that I have had students refusing to take a "name" I
simply call them Senor "X" or Senorita "X".

I was wondering if I was the only one. That's how I refer to my students
in class almost exclusively. As a result, I don't go through the process
of having students choose Spanish names.

John Fain


96/08 From-> Bill Mann <>
Subject: Re: To Name Or Not To Name

Although I understand the need to not insult anyone, It is one thing to
ask students to cook a dish and quite another to change their names and
therefore, identities. Last year I let my students chose Spanish names
and they all liked it. This year, I will give the option. If they want
to, they can, but if they don't, that's fine too. My problem was
imposing the use of another name, NOT the option to choose one if they'd

Bill Mann


97/06 From-> Anita Hamilton <>
Subject: Re: assigning French names to kids

I always gave my students a choice.  A few chose to keep their regular
names.  I failed to mention in my first posting on this subject that
once when I had a hispanic lady substitute for me she was horrified when
she learned that they had been given other names than their own and
proceeded to ream me out when she next saw me. It was for the reason you
mention: that a person's name is his/her identity and when that is taken
away from them, part of them is taken away.  I had never even thought of
that.  That’s why I was asking whether most of the *listeros* thought it
was a good thing to do or not.  I think giving them a choice pretty well
takes care
of that, but I'll bow to wiser heads/experience/consensus, etc.  Thanks
for your inputs.



97/06 From-> Beverly Burdett <>
Subject: Re: assigning French names to kids

As a person with a non-translatable name (Beverly), I always HATED
having to be called by a different name in my Spanish or French classes.
When I go to Mexico and somebody says "Cómo se llama?" or "Cómo te
llamas?", I reply, "Me llamo Beverly." This is me. I would never in real
life say "Me llamo Belinda" or some other name I was assigned in school.

Using my real name is always a great ice breaker, anyway. People say,
"Oh, like Beverly Hills?" (Or in the old days, "Beverly Hillbillies?")
They wonder how it is spelled "Be grande, e, be chica", etc.

As a teacher, I have a difficult enough time learning who my students
are in reality, without having to also learn who they are in fantasy.

Therefore, I have never assigned FL names to my kids. I explain it to
them, as I have explained above, and then if they have a translatable
name we use it (i.e. Juan, David, Susana, Anita) if they want.
Otherwise, we use their real name, but say it with the proper foreign
accent. Thus, Allison becomes "Alisón", or whatever.

The main argument in favor of assigning new names is that we don't want
the kids using English phonemes while speaking the new language. I
believe we have more fun with the kids' REAL names in the foreign
accent, and that way they work harder to use the foreign phonemes. I
would much rather have a kid say "Brady" with a rolled "r" and a
softened "d", than assign Brady to be Paco and have the kids call him
"Pacou" with a diphthong at the end.

These are my personal feelings. They are probably colored by my own
experiences with my name, but I have taught FL for 16 years and I have
never had a complaint about NOT giving the kids a different name.

Beverly Burdett


97/09 From-> jcfjr <>
Subject: Re: Names

>Now I know that others will disagree with me about not having the
students choose a Spanish name to enrich their experience, but as I said,
I'm trying to keep my sanity.

My students don't get Spanish names either. I find it difficult enough
to learn their English names. Choosing Spanish names would be
meaningless for me anyway as I usually refer to my students by Sr. or
Srta. [last name]. I've never found a point in having them pick a
Spanish name that I might use 10 times a year. Don't feel alone.

John Fain


97/09 From-> "Richard E. Boswell" <>
Subject: Re: names

Why not follow the policy that conversation in FL class simulates
conversation in the foreign country and pronounce the name as it
probably would be pronounced if the student went to Spain, France, etc.?
Thus you'd pronounce 'George' the way a French person would say
'Georges', you'd pronounce 'Justin' the way a French person would
attempt to pronounce it correctly but would not put a lexical accent on
the first syllable. But I agree with Marta that we should not be fooling
with the name their parents gave the students.

Richard Boswell


97/09 From-> Mary E Young <>
Subject: Re: names

There is something I'd like you all to consider on this subject:

When French people said my name (the first 20 times) I didn't recognize
it. I had been Solange and Isabelle and Marianne -- but I had no clue
that " Yoong, Marie" was me!

How about pronouncing your students' real names the way they would sound
in the target language? There is no interruption in the L2 rhythm, and
they get used to what L2 speakers will do with their name.

Mary Young

PS -- BTW, the most popular name for baby boys in France a few years ago
was "Kevin" -- an apparent result of either "Home Alone" or that Costner


97/09 From-> Richard Lee <>
Subject: Re: names

I would not pass off a telephone call from an upset mother so easily.
Especially if this involves something which she obviously feels
sensitive about, and given the fact that a lot of people learn languages
without changing names, the pedagogical necessity of the practice seems
dubious at best. Names are very personal, and I have seen kids' faces
just knot up when I call the role at the beginning of the year and use a
name which they don't like and don't use. The case of "Roy" comes to my
mind. He would rather be called "Chris", although that doesn't appear on
any of his records. Just the fact that I read the name, once, really set
him off. He didn't even want the other students to know that this is his
name. I can very easily imagine a student, and therefore a parent,
becoming upset about this name game, and I don't think that there is any
convincing argument which shows that this enhances the language learning

As has been pointed out by others, the "foreign" pronunciation of the
student's real name is an experience which he/she is actually more
likely to encounter, so therefore it would seem to be reasonable to
practice this, or as you say to "french-i-fry" the name, which still
recognizes the fact that it is that individual's true name. I think that
it is an entirely different psychological situation when you (in
Spanish) call on la srta. "Yones" (Jones) or "Esmeet" (Smith) or "Juait"
(White), from the depersonalization which comes from requiring the
student to assume an alter ego. After all, if the kid does use the
language at some point, it will be as "Billy", not "Guillermo", probably
pronounced "Beelee", when he travels abroad, if my experience is
anything near typical.

The only times that I have actually heard the Spanish equivalents used
were very few, and only with people with whom there was a very different
relationship which was being expressed by this process, which is
essentially one of giving a "nickname" to the individual. This is only
done when there is a very close relationship between the people
involved, and there is sufficient intimacy so that there is no doubt
concerning the respect for the identity of the person in question. We
call our godson "Charlie", but only when we are in his company, not with
others. I have seen Peruvian kids who come here react to the English
equivalents which some who aren't aware of the sensitivity give them.
Think for a moment if there were a visiting student named "Francisco" or
"Paco". Would you insist upon calling him "Frank" or "Frankie", just
because we are in America? I fail to see how this would enhance the
kid's perception of our hospitality and warmth.

If the kids want to do this, as play acting, I see no harm in it (but
neither do I see much benefit), however if there is any doubt that it
causes discomfort for the student, or his family, I think that it's wise
to respect that preference. This isn't anything like a parent arguing
for a higher grade than that deserved, so that little Lulu can qualify
for the synchronized swimming team. I find the facile disregard of the
parents sensitivity in matters such as this to be disturbing at best.
Little things such as this can drive wedges between parent and school,
and we don't need more of these unnecessarily divisive assertions of the
teacher's authority in conflict with the parents views, especially
regarding a matter which is in the end, simply the teacher's preference,
not a condition which is indispensable for learning to take place.

I wonder how many kids may have objected to the name game, but didn't
feel free to express that preference, or how many parents felt the same
way, but hesitated to call, out of a concern that this might prejudice
the child's situation in the class. In addition, it should be pointed
out that it is not the number of calls from parents which could be cause
for concern about the relationship between the home and the school, but
rather the nature of the call.

In this kind of situation, I don't think that there's any doubt that
harm is being done, and if this kind of call is a regular event, I would
want to look into the situation and try to build some bridges, not
fences. The response which brushes aside the parent's concern seems to
me to be tainted with the kind of arrogance that schools seem to display
more and more frequently these days, vis a vis the parents, and as
respect for public education and teachers continues to dwindle, I think
that this is an attitude that we can't afford to adopt. There are points
where it's reasonable to draw a line and stand up for a principle. This
isn't one of those points.

Incidentally, I think that there may be a very big difference between
the way that an 8th grader reacts to something like this and the way
that a high school age kid who is most likely in the middle of a
struggle to define his identity, might react.

Richard Lee


97/09 From-> Bob Peckham <bobp@utm.EdU>
Subject: Re: names

There are a number of situations where role playing and identity
swapping are a very good idea. I can understand why taking on a French
or a Spanish name would add something special to the atmosphere. There
are many elaborate versions of these role playings which seem to create
an effective atmosphere. As I have pointed out, probably the best source
of Genuinely French names is linked to my LEXIMAGNE site.

This being said, role playing is not everybody's game. Lazonov
enthusiasts labored at losing the self in a variety of ways, but in the
end Suggestopedia fizzled. Why? Very simple...role playing can only
take you so far. Many people want to learn a FL as themselves. To them,
it is Betty-Lou who wants to learn French, not Babette. In addition,
there are many dangerous role playing games going on in the lives of
pre-teens and teen-agers, which most teachers are not aware of.

It is possible that the classroom is the only place for some to be
themselves (sounds strange, does it?). Lastly, everyone's name culture
is different. For some their name is just what folks call them, but for
others, it becomes an important personal talisman. Ask yourself how
upset students are when a teacher never bothers to learn their names,
and does not seem to care to. If changing your identity was the way to
learn a FL, we would all be a different person as we learned, and we
would probably be the products of Lazonov.

Assigning names is one of those things that should not become a mindless
tradition. I believe that each time we do it, we should ask ourselves what
we want to accomplish by this action

Bob Peckham

C.  Ways to Get to Know Student Names

97/09 From-> Megan Horn <>
Subject: Names

Since you all have been so wonderful helping me through my first week, I
thought I'd ask another piece of advice. How do you learn all of your
students' names????? My coop has 182 students and somehow I have to
learn all of their English and Spanish names, 364 names!!! Any

Thanks so much,
Megan Horn


96/08 From-> Stan Oberg <>
Subject: Name tags (was Nombres para los alumnos)

This year, I am going to try something new with name tags. I have
decided to have the students make name tags that they will wear. I
duplicated on 5x8 cards the words "BONJOUR! Je m'appelle...", and a
spiffy clip art graphic. I did this on the top and bottom half of the
cards. I then cut the cards in half horizontally, and punched holes in
the upper corners. The students will complete the card with their names,
and will add any decorations, colors, etc., they wish.

I have string pre-cut to the proper length, and they will tie the string
through the holes, so they can wear the cards around their necks. Since
I have the kids do a lot of moving around, changing seats (I have chairs
in the room, and have shoved all the tables to the sides) the name tags
will remain with them, rather than on a table or desk. I will also wear
a name tag, but I must admit my artistic efforts leave a lot to be
desired :-) At the end of the period, I will have the students put their
name tags in a box or envelope for their class. The first few days of
class, I plan to do a lot of warm-up, get-acquainted types of
activities. I hope this will be an effective way for us all to get to
know each others' names.

Stan Oberg


96/08 From->  Diana Kozlen
Subject: Name tags

I have six classes (five Spanish 1 and one Spanish 4 AP class) with a
total of 191 students. The Spanish 1 kids love getting a new "Spanish"
name, but aside from that I am really bad at remembering names. I have
devised a method that is mostly for me, but the kids like it. I take a
5" x 8" index card and fold it in half horizontally. After I give the
kids their Spanish name I show them how to write it and pronounce it.
Then I tell them to print their new first name on the card in with magic
markers that I provide. Under their new Spanish name they are to write
in smaller letters their real first and last name. They are to place the
cards on the corner of their desk so that I walk around and ask
questions I can all them by their names. They don't fall off the desks
since the sit like this "^" and they are really easy to read. I tell
them that sometimes I will use their real names and sometimes their
Spanish names (whichever I can remember the better). It helps me
associate a name and a face. Every day at the end of the class they pass
them up to the person who sits in the front of their row. That person
puts his card on the top of that pile. I then put a rubber band around
them. The next day, I just sit the cards on the first desk in each row
and the kids pass them back. It is sort of "first grade" stuff, but as I
begin to learn their names, if I forget to give them their cards, they
let me know it. I have even had kids ask to have their name cards to
keep as a "souvenir" of the class. They don't realize that I've really
done it more for me than for them......just a suggestion that has worked
for me.

Diana Kozlen


96/08 From-> Michelle Jolley <>
Subject: Re: selecting names

I may rethink some of the things I do for next year. I used to let them
choose their own, but the last two years I have assigned names before
I've even seen the students, and it has saved me lots of time, but I
guess it is a little insensitive of me. I love being made to think --or
rethink-- about what I do!

I memorize both names at once -- both names are in my roll book and
grade book, I have 3 X 5 lists that I use in class to call on students,
and both names are there, and they all put their names on notebook
paper, folded in thirds so it will stand up, on their desks.

The day after I give them their names, we do a pronunciation activity. I
have a great vowel demonstration that I got from "The Color Connection"
in Texas. --- After this demonstration I have students make three
columns on a sheet of paper. We then practice pronouncing every name and
we write each one in a column of the paper (the first column for names
stressed on the penultimate syllable, the second for last-syllable, and
the third for names with written accents). As we write each name, I have
the students tell me which syllable is most strongly accented, and we
underline the vowel in that syllable. (We do all of this in Spanish,
even though it is first year) Then I switch to English, and I have the
students articulate the rules of each column, and we write them at the
top. We practice adding other words to the lists, and students see that
Spanish pronunciation is not as intimidating as they thought.

The other day a new student joined our class; we were doing an
information gap activity where students had to complete a class roster,
knowing half of the names, and needing the other half. The students who
had gone over the pronunciation of class names were doing pretty well
(struggling a bit with some names, but trying their best); my new
student was convinced he was in the wrong class. I had a talk with him,
and I think he'll be all right. I overheard a student trying to comfort
him saying that he should come in to see me and get me to show him how
to pronounce names.

I think that students were motivated to learn to pronounce one another's
names, and they didn't have to worry about the meaning of what they were
pronouncing. The task was therefore simplified.

Michelle Jolley


96/10 From-> amber lenore gallup <>
Subject: Re: Memorizing students' names

I just began teaching for the first time in September (Spanish) and had
just a horrible time remembering names at first -- i was nervous and had
so many things to think about...anyway, i know of some publications that
deal with this, and from those publications I found three techniques
that are are/could be useful:

1. ask students to xerox their drivers license or another photo of them
and turn it into you...just study them at home and the next day you'll
know all their names! (from Ben Ward, Western Carolina University)

2. Name tags: sounds silly, but just keep them with you and pass them
out every day for the first couple of weeks. Also, have them turn in
index cards with personal information. Reviewing them after class helps
you make associations with the students, hopefully. (Linda Nelson,
Vanderbilt University)

3. Students interview each other and then introduce each other to the
class. while they're doing this, make up a quick seating chart and jot
down the student's name and perhaps a few features by which you can
identify him/her, like, brown hair, tall, wants to be spanish teacher,

amber lenore gallup


96/10 From-> LEONARD MARSH <>
Subject: Re: Memorizing students' names

This is something I do at the first meeting for every class and I manage
to use the students' names by the end of the class.

1. Greet each student individually BEFORE class begins, preferably as
they come in. Ask them their names, pronounce it out loud: "Hello, Mary"

2. Do the same for the 2nd student: "Hello, John".

3. Look at Mary and John and pronounce their names in your head.

4. Do the same for the 3rd student: "Hello, Phil."

5. Then look at Mary, John and Phil and pronounce all three names in
your head.

6. Do that until you look up and down the rows and are pronouncing the
names of all the students in your head.

7. Call roll from your list to reinforce the match of names with faces.

8. Put your list away and pronounce each student's name aloud up and
down the rows, making sure you ask the names of the students whose names
you have forgotten.

9. Begin class (most likely 10 minutes late) but you have communicated
to your students that you are so interested in them each that you took
the time and made the effort to focus on each one of them individually.
Use their names throughout the class period.

Admittedly, this takes practice and ability to focus. I find the
technique works well in most any social situation, pronouncing the
persons' names out loud first and then mentally.

Leonard Marsh


96/10 From-> Jo Benn <>
Subject: Re: Memorizing students' names

I am terrible with names. When introduced to someone, I almost
immediately forget the name. It can be twice as hard with language
students since mine always choose a French name to use in class as well.
I make a seating chart with students' real and French names on it and
carry it around with me to use for the first few days of class. This
helps me a lot. If you will be observing for the first few days of your
assignment, you could make a copy of the seating plan and put names to
faces while you are observing.

Jo Benn


96/10 From-> Didier Bergeret <>
Subject: Re: Memorizing students' names

One activity I like which helps me remember students' names (and also
which helps students remember each other's names) goes as follows:

Student 1 says (in whatever language you are teaching, or in English if
you prefer) "my name is _____ and I like ____ "(something starting with
the same letter as the student's name, e.g. "my name is Joe and I like

Then student repeats what student 1 said and then introduces him/herself
("This is Joe and he likes jellybeans, I am Kim and I like ketchup")

Etc. until, at the end, the last student has repeated everyone's name
and attribute. Of course, this works well with a class of 20 max. (for
larger classes, you may decide to stop repeating everyone's name once
you reach a certain number and start again after that number)

A good variation of this game is one in which you use an adjective to
describe yourself instead of mentioning a thing you like ("my name is
Heather and I am happy")

Didier Bergeret


96/10 From-> Timothy Mason <>
Subject: Re: Memorizing students' names

If the members of the class already know each other, but you don't know
them , it's difficult to play the naming game, so try this. Have them
make the cards and prop them on their desks. At the end of the lesson,
you collect the cards. Next time, you give them out to each student. You
do this for a few days and the names are there.

Timothy Mason


96/10 From-> Cheryl Adams <>
Subject: Re: Memorizing students' names -Reply

I will admit that I carry around the seating chart on a clipboard all
during class, and as people respond to answers, I mark a dot on their
name. It also helps me manage who is answering questions (so that
darling little Armando in p.2 doesn't actually get to answer EVERY
SINGLE QUESTION) but it also helps me when I go blank on a name. (I know
them but sometimes when I get stressed, the names just disappear) Kids
think I'm looking to see who hasn't answered a question yet ( and that's
what I'm doing sometimes) but sometimes I just peek.


96/10 From-> Laura Kimoto <>
 Subject: Re: Memorizing students' names

To add a variation to Tim Mason's idea:

>If the members of the class already know each other, but you don't know
them , it's difficult to play the naming game, so try this. Have them
make the cards and prop them on their desks. At the end of the lesson,
you collect the cards. Next time, you give them out to each student. You
do this for a few days and the names are there.

A colleague of mine who taught English in Japan did this:

She would make name tags for students but she would be a 'robot' who can
understand simple commands (in the target language) such as "Stop", "go
forward," 'turn left,' turn right 'there he/ she is' etc. She would
spend 1 minute demonstrating those commands (written on the board). For
the first name tag, everyone participates by giving her directions on
how to get to that student (student #1). After that, student #1 has to
give directions to get to student #2 and so forth. It takes time, but
it's well worth it. Students are exposed to the language, must use it,
and I'm sure they come up against communication difficulties which would
spring into their next lesson on asking for repetition, clarification,


Laura Kimoto


96/10 From-> Pamela Casler <CASLER001@WCSUB.CTSTATEU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Memorizing students' names

Learning students' names at the beginning of each year doesn't pose much
of a problem for me, probably because I use some of the same techniques
just mentioned. The very first day of school they choose their French
name after seeing them on a list and hearing them pronounced by me. (Guy
and Max are favorites of the boys....the shorter the better.) And then
we start right in with "comment t'appelles-tu?" and "je m'appelle..."
Then we move on to "comment s'appelle-t-il/elle?" and they have to
introduce each other.

It also encourages them to learn each other's name quickly, because if I
point to someone and ask a classmate, "comment s'appelle-t-il?" and this
student doesn't know the name, he must ask him his name (in Fr. of
course) so that he can then tell me the name. They hate the added step
of having to ask a question before answering mine, so names are learned
quickly. For roll call for the first week, instead of calling out their
real names, I ask their names and they must reply. Then I try to go
around the room and recite their names from memory. If I can't think of
a name, I ask for the first letter. I usually know all the names after
the first three days of school. (Their REAL names, however, are another
matter altogether!)

Pam Casler


96/10 From-> Judy-Ann West <>
Subject: Re: Learning Student Names: New Idea

The name tag/plaque idea is a great one. I remember using it one year
and having the students decorate it to reflect their

The last few years I have been using a different technique with my level
4 and level 5 students. The second day of school (or, it could be your
first day student-teaching or in a long-term sub position) their
homework assignment is to write their name on a sheet of paper and for
each letter of their name (target language or given), they are to find
an adjective that depicts their interests/personality.

example in French:
P oli (I actually had a boy by this name
H onnete who was a model student - as indicated
I ntelligent by his choice of adjectives!)
L oyal

The students share their creations in class. It helps me learn their
names by giving me not only a visual of their name, but an indication of
their interests. The students in the class (who have usually been
together for several years) comment on whether they think this is an
accurate portrayal of their classmate. I usually see many smiles and
nods of agreement!

You can save these and refer to them later on when you know the students
better. I recall last year I had a student named Bryan. For "B" he wrote
"breve". When asked why, he explained he did not give flowery
descriptions and was always to the point. It was not until I had read
his first major composition that I realized how accurate he was. Even
his in-class oral contributions were brief and succinct.

Judy-Ann West


97/09 From-> Patricia Jane Long <>
Subject: Re: Names

>I have my students take a 4 by 6 index card and write their name on it.
I make one for myself. I pass out big marking pens. During class we all
put our name cards out on our desks. It really helps me to learn all of their
names. Most of the students still had the card in their book at the end of
the year last year.


I give instructions in L2 (as I demo each step) to fold a piece of loose
leaf paper in 3 and to write their names in bold in the center section.
Folded back, these triangles stand up on the desks and are easy to see
from a distance. And they are tickled in level one that they can
understand this language stuff.

By the time they don't stand up anymore, I've got their names down pat.
And they make a fine book mark!

I use this same idea in a public speaking lesson to prove the value of a
simple demo or visual as an aide to understanding sequencing when giving

Patty Long


97/09 From-> "Diane M. Colozzi" <>
Subject: Re: Names

>and somehow I have to learn all of their English and Spanish names,
364 names!!! >Any suggestions?

I learn their Spanish or French name first. We play the name game and go
around the room. The first student says their name in Spanish and the
second student has to state their name and the person in front. Each
student must repeat all the names of the students in front of them. The
teacher in the meantime is saying the names out loud for correct
pronunciation; this is when the teacher also starts to learn and
memorize the names. By the end the teacher should go after the last
student and say all the names. You will forget some but you learn a lot
of them. I learn their English names as I put their grades in my rank
book and sometimes I never remember their English names.

Diane Colozzi


97/09 From-> Julianne Baird <>
Subject: Re: Names

>How do you learn all of your students' names?????

I have my students make name signs. We do this via TPR. Take a sheet of
paper and fold it in half. Open it and fold each half into the center.
You get a paper with 3 fold lines, 4 sides. Take the two ends and turn
one under the other. This should look like a triangle from the side. The
name sign won't stand up very well unless you take the top fold and
crease it again. Have the students write their English names (including
last names) on side and their Spanish/German/French names on the other.
I collect these at the end of every class and then when I am reviewing
the next day, I put them on the desk in front of each student. If I
don't know who is who, I simply ask. This method really works for me.

Julie Baird


97/09 From-> Heather Drake <>
Subject: Re: Names

As a first year Spanish teacher, I did three things to learn my
students' names. First, I chose not to have the students choose a
Spanish name, as I felt that I'd be overwhelmed with enough other things
to remember (and I am feeling overwhelmed at the beginning of the third

Now I know that others will disagree with me about not having the
students choose a Spanish name to enrich their experience, but as I
said, I'm trying to keep my sanity. The second thing I did was create a
seating chart before school began, and when the students walked into the
classroom, I told them where they were to sit. I did this randomly,
choosing not to go by alphabetical order. This helped me get to put a
face with a name quicker. And third, as was in the intro of the text, I
started with ?Cómo te llamas? Me llamo.... and went around the room
asking each student. After doing some variation of this activity for 3
days, I knew most of my students, and by the end of the first week, I
had everyone's names memorized. I hope these suggestions help.

!Buena suerte!
Heather Drake


Subject: Re: Names

When I used to teach out there in Webster Groves, MO, I always gave
Spanish names to my students, learned those right away (through using
them constantly in class activities, etc.), and then found that learning
their English names came much more slowly. When we would have an early
open house, I sometimes hesitated before identifying and matching
students' names w/parents in my room because while I knew perfectly well
who Pilar and Raúl were, Cindy and Jack were another matter.

At USAFA some of us accidentally hit on a fun solution. The policy there
is not to address cadets by their first names in class--but I still
wanted to use some form of Spanish name, etc. So a colleague and I hit
on the idea of transferring their surname into some semblance of a
Spanish representation. For example, Cadet Jordan became Sr. Río Santo,
Cadet Smith was Srta. Herrera, Cadet Panther was Sr. Pantera,
obviamente. At any rate, the cadets loved this, it allowed us to follow
policy and still be creative and "Spanish" and it also helped us learn
their English names more quickly.

Maybe this will help some people. I wish I'd thought of it back there in
Webster Groves! **:-)

Jean LeLoup


97/09 From-> Tara Stace <>
Subject: Re: Names

<< Since you all have been so wonderful helping me through my first
week, I thought I'd ask another piece of advice. How do you learn all of your
students' names????? My coop has 182 students and somehow I have to
learn all of their English and Spanish names, 364 names!!! Any

Since you have so many names, I would suggest you only learn their
Spanish names. That is all I do and it is all I have ever done. I tell
my students it is hard enough to learn all the Spanish names, I can't
learn the English too. I do tell them if I know your English name it is
because I have had to call your parents or write you up. They laugh, but
it is true. I learn their last names and eventually some of the English
names I learn and some I don't. I also tell my students to pick a name
they like because they will be forever known to me as Paco, Pedro,
Susana, or Eva.

Tara Stace

D. Name experiences

96/08 From-> Brad Pearl <>
Subject: Re: To Name Or Not To Name

>Some of my students choose to keep their Spanish names from levels
1-4!! On the other hand, others choose to use their given ones. I allow
them to think about this and then to choose. I always remind them that
they can change later if they wish.

In El Salvador, my name (Brad) is pronounced Bread. So I changed my name
to Don Diego, until I found out what Don meant. Then I just made it

I find that students usually like to choose a Spanish name. Some keep
their original names. I have three John's this year on one class, and
each choose a different name. This actually helps me quite a bit.

Brad Pearl


96/09 From-> Bill Mann <>
Subject: Names/"Don"


I met with my classes for the first time today. I told all my classes my
feelings on "giving" them Spanish names. They respected me for it. Some
of the 1R class want to choose names, in level 2 and 3 most want to get
rid of their Spanish names in favor of their own names.

As for me, I gave them the option that they could call me any of the
Señor Mann
Don Guille
Don Guillermo or Simply Don Bill

They seemed to like the idea that they got to use a first name with me
even though I require that they use the title if they were going to use
a first name with me. I also told them that I would I would extend them
the same respect by using Don or Dona and their first name if they
wished me to. I'll see how it goes and let you know.

Bill Mann


97/06 From-> Mick Barrow <>
Subject: Assigning Foreign names to students

I teach English as a foreign language in Japan, and some of my adult
students ask for nicknames to be used in class. A few translate part of
their Japanese names into English (a Mr. Ishida wants to be called
"Stoney"). Others want to be called after someone they admire (a tennis
player wants to be called "Boris"; a skiier, "Tombo") or for something
related to their hobby (a car enthusiast, "Cooper"; a chocoholic,
"Pocky" - the name of a popular biscuit snack), or for a character trait
they're known for ("Smiley").

Still, most prefer to be called by their Japanese names, but by their
first names, not their family names, quite the opposite of the norm
within Japanese society. Some of my female students say they thoroughly
enjoy being called by their first names, rather than by their
husband's names or by their husband's title. In a real sense they're
using their Japanese name in an Anglo-saxon way.

Japanese names are in general easy to pronounce somewhat accurately. In
Hong Kong, most Chinese take English names which used to be ( still are?)
even included on their official i.d. cards, and some of them are
extremely esoteric ("Turquoise", "Mecky", and "Llewelyn" - with Welsh
pronunciation, for example).

It can be fun and a useful language exercise to learn how to explain
that your name is "x" but you want to be called "y" in the language
being learned. I've found myself that "Michael" is very hard to
pronounce correctly in Japanese - coming out as "Maikeru", so I ask
people here to call me Mick - which becomes a more recognizable "Mikku",
and that in New Caledonia  a lot of French people automatically called
me "Michel".

If someone's name will be hard to pronounce for the target language's
native speakers, it won't hurt to prepare the students for the
possibility that a nickname or localization may facillitate
communication. That's why Ms Heung Yin Wah would rather be called
"Yolanda" than have her name butchered by a foreigner.

Just a few thoughts, thanks for your time,

Mick Barrow


97/09 From-> MS JANET R WOODHOUSE <>
Subject: Re: learning names

One activity I do that the students love is to play "Upset the
Fruit Basket" with their new French names. I go outside for this one and
we only do it once every year. I place one student in the middle of the
circle of students. They call two names. The two names called and the
student in the middle must try to change places and whoever doesn't get
in one of the two spots, becomes the next caller of two names. Then I
expand to three names and they can't leave their places until all three
are called. Before we end, I introduce "Bouleversez" and tell them all
must then change places if that is called.

I have done this inside when I had a large room; we used the desks after
being placed in a circle and a few ground rules. For example, no cutting
over desks, no injuring someone else, etc.. I have had them write the
new names on the board for practice with writing and pronunciation.
They can use that as a crutch. Then I erase the names after playing for
several minutes. Believe me, they quickly learn names and so do I! I did
this in exploratory classes and now in French I. We are on block, so
they enjoy the opportunity to do something out of their seats. I'm in a
portable building outside, so it easy to use the great outdoors!

It's a bit crazy, but then, so am I!

Janet Woodhouse


97/09 From-> Judith Nixon <>
Subject: Re: Names

Another fun way to deal with the difference between the Spanish and
English names of each student is to have students teach their parents to
introduce themselves in the target language at the Parent-Teacher
Conference for extra credit. P.E.: "Soy la mama de Carlos Wright." The
kids love seeing their parents struggle with what they have already
learned and the parents find out that Spanish/any other language is not
so easy.

Judith Nixon


97/09 From-> Jeff Amdur <>
Subject: Re: names

>I feel somewhat confused about the topic of "names." I teach English
as a second language in Puerto Rico. I have NEVER thought of giving
my student any other name but the one they were christened with. In
fact, I emphasize that if their name is Jose, it remains Jose even if they live
in China.

Although I emphasize the same fact, I have always used
French/Spanish/German names in my classes. The rationale, as was
explained to me way back in the dark ages, is that it keeps the
conversation and instruction in the target language, rather than having
to insert Anglicisms such as "Tu as une autre reponse, Kevin?", "Wie alt
bist du, Jennifer?", or "De qué color es la falda que lleva Hepzibah

I pass out a list of names in the target language, tell them that the
list is not exhaustive, and let the students choose their foreign names.
I tell them the closest equivalent, but I don't hold them to it. The
only rules I have are that (a) no two people in the same class can have
the same name; and (b) some names are taboo because I cannot pronounce
them and keep a straight face--the French name "Hugues" and the German
name "Waltraud", when I pronounce them, always produce in me a
Pavlovian-reflex chuckle.

Jeff Amdur


97/09 From-> Roger Sprik <>
Subject: Names, give us a break!

I guess I could be won over to the side of those who think we should
keep the given name of a student and simply strive to pronounce their
name with the target language pronunciation. But if I choose to give
other names, why is it so bad? I grew up in Puerto Rico and my name
(Roger) was pronounced "Royer". I had my name spelled so many different
ways (Roller, Royer, Royal, etc.) I sometimes told people my name was
Rogelio or just told them it was like Buck Rogers or Roger Moore. They
then got it.

I was also addressed as "Flaco, Negro, Gringo (affectionately), Gueero
(in Mexico), Americano, Hinchu, 10-4 (for Roger, 10/4), Mormon (I went
to a school where we wore uniforms similar to Mormon missionaries. My
point is, it's not a big deal. Students can differentiate between the
artificiality of a classroom and real life. When I take students to
Spain, they use their given names. In the classroom, they get a kick out
of a different name. So why not?

Roger Sprik


97/09 From-> Lynn Nuthals <>
Subject: Re: names

Just a short note regarding names... my kids have always loved picking
them... I especially remember the year my fourth year students decided
to change their names... My response of no problem just remember to put
a surname on your paper resulted in .....
they also picked Spanish surnames .....

You can imagine the fun I had deciphering handwriting... for awhile..
but you have to love 'em.

Lynn Nuthals


97/09 From-> Melita Sperling <>
Subject: Re: names

I agree wholeheartedly! with Judith Nixon's comment. I once had a very
bright, articulate and more advanced student who's last name was
"Outlaw" in English. Besides giving him a "regular Spanish name" like
Pedro, Esteban or Miguel or whatever (I'm not revealing my student's
identity), we called him "El Bandito" in class. We asked his permission
first and always did so affectionately and with good humor. Having this
"name" seemed to give him a greater sense of personal freedom to explore
the Spanish language in a way he had not done in previous classes.

He was one of my best students, not in the traditional sense but in
terms of his experiential learning and application of the Spanish
language. He'll always be remembered from his photo-essay presented in
Spanish about a Latino neighborhood replete with signs "Bodegas" and
Spanish letterings to his essays and prose written for class in his
Spanish writing journal and the video oral presentation he made to the

Melita Sperling


97/09 From-> Rebecca McClung <>
Subject: Re: names

I could relate to Melita's story about Jose who was called Josie or
Jose! I had a student named Rene, whose family moved here from Canada.
It didn't take him long to discover that an eighth-grade boy named
"Rene" was a dream-come-true for some of our lovely, macho Virginia
red-necks! He quickly renamed himself "Ronnie" in self-defense.

His parents insisted that he take French because they were afraid that
he would eventually forget it. In my class, he was "Rene," and no one
snickered because it was his "French" name. He is nearly thirty now,
still living and working in town here, and I think I'm one of the few
people who know that Ronnie is not his real name!

We have a growing immigrant Mexican population here, and the Mexican
men's names, like Carlos, Luis, and Pedro, seem "manly" enough to
everyone. I assume a similar acceptance comes to "feminine-sounding"
French men's names (like Rene, Michel, Dominique) if they are in a place
with a lot of French or Canadian immigrants?

Becky McClung


97/09 From-> "Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez" <>
Subject: Re: Names--again

Naming practices vary in different religious and national cultures, and
names have different meanings, as a consequence. Religious Jews are
given a Hebrew name which may bear no relation to their English (or
Spanish or Chinese) name, and which they may never hear used outside
religious events. There are cultures in which you don't acquire your
adult name until you earn it. I don't know the real name of my dearest
friend, a Newar from Nepal; I only know it is different from what she is
known by. Their public names are public and their private names do not
go outside the home and family.

>Can someone explain to me, why should we go from Jose to Joseph just
because we got on a plane and traveled to another country?

Let me offer a real-life answer.

There are a number of people living in countries other than their native
one who either can't stand to hear their names fractured by others or
who find that people are uncomfortable trying to address them. Most
Chinese students that I have had (and most of my husband's Asian
coworkers) have all adopted Americanizations of their names, because
American English just doesn't have the sounds of their languages. They
sound bad and it gets embarrassing, and even annoying, to stand there
watching people stumble over your name every time it comes up.

Even with names that are less unusual to the new language, they may just
sound bad. My husband, Cristian [KREES- tyahn], typically becomes Chris
[KRIS] or Christian [KRIS-chen], neither of which he likes, but he lives
with; what are ya gonna do? Personally I hate Cindy [SEEN-dee] in
Spanish, so I generally go by Lucinda because the change from
[loo-SIN-duh] to [loo-SEEN-dah] actually sounds like an improvement to
me. I worked for years with an Argentinian of your name, Marta, who went
by Martha, because like it or no, that's what she got. My brother-in-law
Hebert likewise surrendered to Herbert.

Then there are the bigger changes, like in last names. My grandparents'
generation coming in at Ellis Island with documents in Russian or Hebrew
that the immigration officials couldn't read, often took or were given
new names, and so my grandfather's family went from Portnoy (Russian) to
Feder German) (?!?). Some change their names to hide what they perceive
as an ethnic stigma. So my Polish neighbors changed their name from
Slawinski to Winter. Untold numbers of Jews smoothed out their names,
e.g. from Blumberg to Bloom, etc.

For most of us, taking on a new name brings with it a bit of new
identity, like an actor learning a new role. The first reaction may be
that it's fake and hypocritical, play acting. That's the point at which
most resistance to new names comes. In the long-run, as we "grow into
the name," it represents growth of the personality into another cultural
dimension. We become truly broader as people. Though I didn't grow up
with it, loo-SEEN-dah is as much me as Cindy is. Puerto Rico is one
place where two cultures are so pervasive and integrated that you may
not feel a strong difference moving from one language to the other. You
may already have that breadth so internalized that you don't realize
what a leap it is for some.

Those are my thoughts.

Cindy H-G (on the Net where nobody can mispronounce it to my ears)
Lucinda (if you don't speak English natively)

E. Some Sources for Names

97/06 From-> Bob Peckham <bobp@utm.EdU>
Subject: Re: assigning French names to kids

I think LEXIMAGNE has a near complete list of French first names

Leximagne - l'Empereur des pages dico @ Globe-Gate

TBob it "Liste brute de prenoms (francophones)"


97/06 From-> Bob Peckham <bobp@utm.EdU>
Subject: Re: assigning French names to kids

I think if y'all would go to the near complete list of French names on
LEXIMAGNE, you would find out you have a lot of leeway.  You can find
things very close to the student's names, and there are unusual ones for
students who really want a new identity.  I am getting so very old that
I have forgotten if the French themselves have laws about what first
names you can choose.  I believe they had restrictions at one time.
Could any of you fill me in on the details? It might be an interesting
story for classrooms where new names are chosen.


F. FLT Responds to a Query About Names (July 1997)

97/07 From-> "Andrya Lewis" <>
Subject: foreign language names

I love throwing questions out and watching as you all go for it and the
information comes pouring into brain from the computer! Here is my
latest question.

I've been thinking about doing my thesis on the L2 ego that develops
while students learn a FL and how having a different
(French/Spanish/whatever) name for the FL class affects the students'
abilities to risk- take.

How many of you have the students pick FL names and have you noticed any
difference when students have an FL name to use in class?



97/07 From-> Rama Sohonee <>
Subject: Re: foreign language names

Essentially at the beginning of a new semester a foreign name is
assigned to all students similar or beginning with the alphabet of their
own name. This is done either by the instructor or by new students in
groups. Usually all the later arriving students get a name from their
own classmates(approved by the instructor of course)

Most accept it and are happy, a few resent it(want it changed) and one
or two even reject the idea of new names. Here is where the ego may come
in. I have seen that most students grow to love their foreign names and
respond immediately when spoken to in F2 with that name. It aids in
putting the mind on the F2 track and they even relate to each other with
those names. We are all now a new family and stay that way till the end
of the semester/year.

Sometimes the names are so ingrained that one even tends to forget their
real world names. If you develop any study or questionnaire I could use
it in my class.


97/07 From-> "Diane M. Colozzi" <>
Subject: Re: foreign language names

>How many of you have the students pick FL names and have you noticed any difference when students have a FL name to use in class?

I think it is true that they become another person. In fact, by the end
of the year no one knows anyone's real name. They start calling each
other by their French or Spanish name outside of the classroom and other
friends in the hall or caf start calling them these names. I had a
student come back and visit and said, "don't you remember me, I'm
Julio." Sometimes I forget both their English names and Spanish names by
the time they are 20 years old and paying me a visit.

Back to the point - when I call a make-believe name, the other students
are going to remember that Carlos got the answer right or wrong, and not

You should compare students in classes with Spanish names and those
without. They would give you the real answers to your question.

Diane Colozzi


97/07 From-> "Andrya Lewis" <>
Subject: Re: foreign language names

Oh, that's great! That's the kind of thing I am looking for. I remember
when I took HS French, my name was Dominique. The teacher (whom I love
and still keep in contact with and even assisted in her classes one
semester) made the diminutive, Nique-nique. I answered to Dominique and
knew all my classmates by their French names. I think at first we felt
kind of stupid, but it caught on. It helped to keep us in the FL mode. I
am just toying around with the idea now. I don't even know if that will
make a good thesis or not. Truth be known, I am clueless about theses. I
have an advisor who is less than available and I have never met with
him. Anyway, I am totally intrigued with the idea and will let you know
if I develop anything.

Thanks for the input.



97/07 From-> Gretchen Kessler <>
Subject: Re: foreign language names

I too use Spanish names in all my classes....saying, when in Spanish, do
as the Spaniards do, and have never had a student who didn't like it in
eighteen years of teaching. I let them pick whatever Spanish name they
want and for many, it allows them to take on a new personality. I have
students who never participate in other classes and love to in mine. On
our three-day retreats I will hear students who don't even take Spanish
calling some of the others by their Spanish names because they really
love using them.

They will come back years later and still introduce themselves by their
Spanish name. (Hate to admit it, but I remember their Spanish names
years later better than I do their English ones.) I think a lot of it
has to do with how the teacher presents it, if the teacher uses a target
language title in his/her name, and how comfortable the teacher makes it
for the students. IMHO, each teacher has to do what works best for
him/her, but personally, I can't imagine not using target language
names. And I think it allows the students some freedom to develop within
the language classroom.

Gretchen Kessler


97/07 From-> william armour <>
Subject: Re: foreign language names

I'm reading an interesting collection of essays edited by Jane Gallop
called 'Pedagogy The question of impersonation'. The issue of giving
students foreign names is a case in point of how the teacher has imposed
the role of impersonator onto the learner. As one of the essayists has
called it, the learner is doing "racial drag" (the non-native teacher is
too, but that's another story).

Is the purpose of giving names to learners a form of acculturation into
the target culture/language ? I wonder how adults would react to being
given a Japanese name (in my case). I wonder whether they would suffer
from racial dragphobia aka culture shock ?

William Armour


97/07 From-> Irene Moon <>
Subject: Re: foreign language names

Dear William (Armour)

The article you're reading sounds quite interesting. I'd like to
knowmore if you have the time to give us more than an abstract. In last
few years I have stopped giving kids Spanish names (unless they were
really adamant) because of an uncomfortableness with making them assume
another identity. For years I gave them Spanish names because it was
"the thing to do"...we learned it in methods; it was just something you
did. When I actually started thinking about it, I decided it was an
option for those who wanted it.

Irene Moon

And here are the 63 contributors to this vital topic:

Cheryl Adams
Jeff Amdur
William Armour
Julianne Baird
Mick Barrow
Jo Benn
Didier Bergeret
Richard Boswell
Ramona Bunn
Beverly Burdett
Pam Casler
Diane Colozzi
Colleen Coram
Anna Damiens
Veronica Dees
Heather Drake
John Fain
Gene Foldenauer
Anne Fontaine
Amber Gallup
Anita Hamilton
Lucinda  Hart-Gonzalez
Megan Horn
Michelle Jolley
Helen Jones
Gretchen Kessler
Laura Kimoto
Liz Klem
Diana Kozlen
Michael Kundrat
Richard Lee
Jean LeLoup
Andrya Lewis
Patricia Long
Florence Maloy
Bill Mann
Leonard Marsh
Timothy Mason
Rebecca McClung
Irene Moon
Michelle Moyer
Judith Nixon
Lisa Nocita
Lynn Nuthals
Stan Oberg
Marta Pabellon
Brad Pearl
Bob Peckham
Vanessa Peterson
Becky Post
Ken Reed
Mary Ricks
Lois Sabino
Rebecca Sherman
Rama Sohonee
Melita Sperling
Roger Sprik
Tara Stace
Ceil Trowbridge
Cindy Walsh
Judy-Ann West
Janet Woodhouse
Mary Young


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