Primary teachers know this. Good secondary and post-secondary teachers know this. Some businesses even know this. But way too many people around this planet can't figure it out.
It is insulting to be called by the wrong name, or to have your name mispronounced, or misspelled.
Insulting and demeaning for kids, for teens, for adults, and yes, for nations and peoples. For all of these, misnomers are an assault on identity.
That said, watching the World Cup 2010 this summer (northern hemisphere) I am hoping that we are slowly moving towards solving a long-term pet peeve of mine. Calling other nations by bizarre, antique, mis-names, something which works against international understanding in every way.
All of these misspellings and mispronunciations are ancient hangovers of beliefs in limited language learning capability and in homeland superiority. We didn't want to struggle with learning names in different languages, and we didn't think it was important.
But we're all part of one big globe these days, like it or not, and it is time we started thinking it's important. Especially in schools.
Google Maps made a huge leap about three years ago when their different national versions all started using actual nation names all across the map.
Suomi" is the name of the nation in "Suomi" - the language of 92% of the residents of that nation. I was so frustrated by this that I worked with kids on a project called "Naming the World" (below) where we tried to figure out (a) the names of nations, (b) what people called themselves, (c) what people called their language. As the project went along lots of other questions got answered as well.
As we watch the World Cup, as we see what the nations "look like," (the diversity of Deutschland, Nederland, France, the vast difference between neighbors Argentina and Paraguay), we can also start to hear the voices of these different peoples, and we can learn their names.
We have all the tools now. We have Google Maps and Wikipedia in all its languages. We have Google translate and online dictionaries with audio. There is no real excuse. If this idea is new to you, learn with your students.
Whatever nation you are in, in this century we are raising citizens of the world. Help them get there by helping all of us call people by their real names.
- Ira Socol