As a writing consultant who has worked at the Writing Center for about two years, I'd like to focus my blog post on working with English Language Learners (ELLs also known as ESLs). More specifically, I'd like to discuss how I've come to feel about referring to ELLs by their preferred nickname.
Here at the UNLV Writing Center we get many international students and writers whose native language is not English. They seek help on many different areas of their writing just like native English speakers, except there is one key difference; ELLs are attempting to learn a completely foreign language while trying to juggle the basics of composition at the same time. These writers may find difficulties understanding and adapting to the formalities of composition techniques used here in the United States because they differ from the way they've composed essays in their native languages/countries. As the daughter of two immigrant parents, I understand how difficult it can be to have to learn something entirely different than what you are used to. It is for this reason that I commend and appreciate the dedication it takes for ELL writers who may struggle with the rules of composition, pronunciation, and of course, grammar. This is also why I feel it is not difficult for me to make an effort to pronounce the names of the writers we assist.
Throughout my experience, I noticed that sometimes students have preferred anglicized nicknames. For example, if a student's name is Zhang Qiang, his preferred nickname might be Chris because often times people have mispronounced his name. It IS understandable that if a name is foreign to a person, one might not know how to pronounce it correctly. However, as someone who works with writers of different cultures and backgrounds, I believe it is necessary to respect the identities of the writers I work with by pronouncing their names the way they prefer. This includes students who are native English speakers as well.
On the other hand, I understand this ties into the preferences of the student who may have tired of having to teach others how to pronounce their name. Over time, a student would much rather prefer to be called by their angilcized name because it is easier on them and the people who they come into contact with. I respect this as well. It is very likely that any nickname the student prefers is how they identify themselves at home, with friends, or in public. Since my goal as a consultant is to make writers feel accepted and comfortable, I am more than happy to take the time to either learn how to pronounce a writer's name or call them by their preferred nickname.
In all, I believe it is important that consultants take the time to pronounce the names of writers correctly. This may involve asking if they pronounced the writer's name properly at the beginning of a session or repronouncing the name after they have been corrected; it shows we care about being respectful and about the preferences of the writer. Writers should not be discouraged from teaching us the proper pronunciations of their names because they're used to having their names pronounced incorrectly. Thus, I hope writers are willing to be patient when expressing their preferred method of pronunciation or nickname.
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