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I was only 7 years old when it first happened. Or at least, that’s the first time I actually remember it occurring.
My name was mispronounced, and it still continues to be.
I don’t blame anyone. My name is in Spanish, and it would be ridiculous of me to expect everyone I meet to speak Spanish. I can appreciate people not coming from the same background as I do, but my name is my identity. If it is not given the proper respect, I feel insulted.
Now, I am not saying this is a terrible epidemic, but it may cause some unnecessary distress for some people. Take my little brother: He is now 11 years old, and when he started school, he would get angry with teachers and family friends when they didn’t call him by his full name. His name is Juan de Dios. Not Juan; he would protest. Not John of God, either. His name is Juan de Dios.
Even when I introduce myself, my name still ends up getting pronounced the way it phonetically sounds in English. That always sounds a little funny; think of telling someone your name is Eric, only to have him or her say “Eyic.” If I didn’t learn to appreciate people’s attempts to say my name, I would be a very unhappy person.
It seems that even when I remind people of how to say it, they forget. I can understand people not memorizing the exact pronunciation, but it seems that some people don’t apply any effort.
When I decided to attend college, I thought that no matter where I chose to go, students would be a little more cultured, a little more accepting of differences. So I decided that I would correct everybody, to assure that my name was to be pronounced the way it was intended, and that I wasn’t going to put up with the mispronunciation.
I soon forgot about that.
It was far too late to begin correcting people. People just didn’t care, and when I cared, it came off as rude rather than passionate. I wanted people to know that I was tired of the mistake; I needed to stand up for myself.
My father, my namesake, did his best to teach me to this, just like anyone’s parents attempt. My father emigrated from Mexico when he was 18, after my mother arrived in California. According to a Washington Post story I read, the United States is home to over 37 million immigrants, from all countries. That’s 37 million possible name mispronunciations. I am well aware that Spanish is the most widely spoken tongue in the U.S. after English, but I can’t help but wonder how many people with Asian, African or European names deal with name butchering.
I don’t believe all people are going to be able to pronounce every name with a culturally different pronunciation, but an honest attempt is always appreciated. It is a small but effective reminder of people’s willingness to accept and appreciate differences.
So here is how you pronounce my name: Es-TAY-vahn.
Let’s not get started on my middle name.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Esteban L. Hernandez at Esteban.email@example.com.