Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What's In A Name?

For the past month and two days, I've been using the first edition of a Poly written grammar textbook, while my students have been using the 3rd edition. Along the way the differences had not been hard to work around, but today the pages numbers all stopped corresponding and I demanded an up-to-date book.

The edits between the 1st and 3rd editions are interesting, because 99% of them have been name changes. The original was written with all of the proper nouns being Korean names, places, and things. In the 3rd edition, the proper nouns are Western. And not just any Western, WASP Western.

What does it mean that they changed Tae to Tim? Two little letters move us from one culture to the next. I wonder how the kids would react to the texts differently? And what was the thought process behind this change?

I have always been anti-name change. Sometimes the kids just get it into their head that they want to be called, I dunno, Princess or something equally bizarre. Barring a parent calling in an making a stink about it, it ain't happening. (Can you tell I just watched two episodes of Lost in which Sawyer was heavily featured?)

My one allowance is for changing to use their Korean names in class, because I'm kind of ambivalent about them having English names in the first place. The younger students seem to find it fun. I can even see that it might help in the process of setting up a completely English environment - a different name to respond to might well just be the click a kid needs to slip between the two languages. And certainly, it helps newbie teachers. ESL teachers in Korea usually have a lot of students. Right now, I actually teach the fewest I ever have, due to a stint doing some vocabulary test writing and teaching 2 blocks worth of students who come ever day. At most, I used to teach 10 different classes, all full of kids. Memorizing that many names is hard to begin with, so adding in names you are unfamiliar with and names that tend to involve the same syllables in different orders, well. Not easy.

However, I taught older, middle school grades in my first contract here and the kids often felt quite strongly about the issue of English names and generally they came out against it. Several of my students in Mokdong just went with their own names, romanized. I suspect there were more of them in Mokdong only because that's where I've taught the most returnee students (students who have lived overseas for a minimum of a year.)

I totally get it. You won't find me ever changing my name. That name is who I am and for all my numerous faults, I like me.

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