A common issue among children of immigrant parents is the use of Ethnic names. They are difficult to pronounce, hard to spell, and sometimes are the butt of all jokes in elementary school. Per the name of this blog my perspective comes from the Ethiopian American experience. I know of Ethiopians who give their children, American names, or names that are common in both the American culture and Ethiopian culture. They do this in an attempt to protect their child from teasing or make it easier and socially acceptable for American’s or member’s of other ethnic groups to pronounce. But here’s my question: What is a parent teaching their child by adapting to the American culture by naming their child something that is clearly not within the list of Ethiopian cultural names? What about the idea of having an American version and an Ethiopian version to your name? Yes , we are all guilty of utilizing a different pronunciation of our name when explaining it to an American colleague , classmate or friend. I obviously do not expect people to pronounce my name the way my mother or father intended it to be said, however I do expect people to try to get as close as possible.
After attending two graduations two weekends in a row, I realized : the person that announces the names of the graduates absolutely butchers each ethnic name. These graduates worked hard for however many years in their respective programs and at that very moment when their moment of glory and success is about to be celebrated the man/woman who is announcing the names destroys the pronunciation. Talk about a slap in the face. So what is the solution? Should parents reconsider what they name their child to avoid such humiliation? Should they make their children feel as though their name is not enough? NO!!! Here’s my opinion: Parents should name their child however they want, give the ethnic Ethiopian name, name your child after your great grandmother with an obscure name , make it super ethnic, and then TEACH YOUR CHILD TO BE PROUD OF THAT NAME. Teach your child to pronounce it with pride, explain the meaning, and make them proud to be who they are. That’s what I truly believe.
Yes, it is difficult to pronounce certain letter combinations in Ethiopian names, especially “ts” “ke” “che”, but even still- I think part of self confidence comes from being proud of where you come from, and if your parents gave you a super ethnic name be proud of it. Say it correctly let other people butcher it, don’t do the butchering for them. If you want I think its completely fine to come up with a nickname to shorten it, whatever it is you want to do, but be proud of who you are. Never change anything about yourself or your culture just to make someone else’s life easier. #Imjustsaying #ethiopianamericangirl.