“But what is your real name?”: Honoring transnational students’ complex agentive acts of identity negotiations in (re)naming practices (by Dr Sunny Man Chu Lau)

For those who are Key and Peele[1] fans, or even if you are not, I’m sure you might have come across this comical and satirical classroom sketch where Key poses as a substitute teacher in a predominately white classroom and mispronounces all their names as he takes the register. The sarcasm of the skit is unmistakable – anyone who is familiar with urban educational contexts can immediately recognize the parody on classrooms where monolingual and ethnocentric English-speaking teachers ‘bastardize’ or mess up multicultural students’ names. Except in this case, Key the mix-raced substitute teacher is the one who mispronounces some very common English names, such as Jacqueline as /dʒæ·kwa:·lɪn/ (ja-kwa-lin) or Blake as /ba·la·kɪ/ (ba-la-ke). The hilarity builds up as the teacher sees the students’ efforts to correct his pronunciation as acts of defiance, typical of inner-city high-schoolers and is all ready to declare “war” on them. When one student, Denise, retorts repeatedly that her name be pronounced as /dəˈniːz/ rather than /dɪ·naɪs/ (de-nice), the teacher lets out his anger by snapping his roster clipboard into two. His indignation is only assuaged when the only ethnic student (played by Peele) in the class, Timothy, responds readily and gladly to the teacher’s call of his name as /tɪ·məʊ·θi/ (ti-mo-thi).

The bazarro classroom depicted in this Key and Peele’s sketch jolts us to confront ethnocentric teaching practices, such as carelessly mispronouncing multicultural students’ names or even changing or imposing on them a certain new name to better fit with the dominant linguistic and cultural practice. Naming practice has “the power to exclude, stereotype or disadvantage students” (Peterson, Gunn, Brice, & Alley, 2015), particularly in the case of foreign names that bear unfamiliar sounds. One BILD guest blogger Narjes اسم من نرجس است (April 15, 2019) expressed how she felt different and out of place when her teachers couldn’t say her name right and that no one seemed to be interested in knowing the story behind her name. With her name erased, she felt part of herself got erased as well. Stories such as this reminds us as educators that insensitivity towards multicultural students’ names and identities can cause indelible harm and compels us to be respectful of linguistic and cultural diversity and vigilant of any identity-rejection practices in class.

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Descendant of the “good” immigrants (by Rhonda Chung)

This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

If I go back to where I come from, it means going back to Toronto.

If I go back to where my parents were born, that country no longer exists.

My parents were born not in Dutch Guiana (Suriname), or French Guiana (Guyane française), or Spanish Guayana (Venezuela), or Portuguese Guiana (Brazil), but in British Guiana (Guyana), a small coastal country located in the north-eastern region of South America.

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Musings on Accent – a double-edged tongue? (by Dr Caroline Riches)

What is it about accents that we find so interesting? I am intrigued by accents in terms of language dialects and varieties, accents of plurilingual speakers in their language repertoire and accents of L2 learners. I am fascinated by the regional accents of French in Quebec [you can tell if a francophone is from Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean or Abitibi, for example, from their accent (Brad, 2014)], which I think are Canada’s answer to Trudgill’s example of regional accents of English in England in his Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society classic (2000). 

Although immediately, as I began to write this blog post, I wondered if everyone is as fascinated by different accents as I am. I am English-Canadian, and grew up in very WASP[1]ish areas of Toronto, Pittsburgh and Montreal – looking back now, I imagine that I did not hear a lot of language diversity in my formative years.  Do I notice accents more than other people? It is different for those who grew up in more multilingual environments? Or is it just that I am interested in anything to do with language?

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My name is Narjes اسم من نرجس است (by Narjes Hashemi)

This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

Our guest blogger this week, Narjes Hashemi, is a second-year master’s student in Education and Society in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. She has been working as a graduate research assistant (GRA) on the SSHRC funded project “Countering religious extremism through education in multicultural Canada”, under the direction of Dr. Ratna Ghosh. She graduated with a BA in Sociology degree from the University of British Columbia. Her MA thesis explores women’s roles in preventing religious extremism in Afghanistan.

My name is Narjes. اسم من نرجس است. It’s an Arabic and Persian name meaning a specific kind of daffodil (also known as Narcissus flower). It’s a very popular name in the Middle East as well as in Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Iran and India. In Iran, it’s commonly known as Narges. In India, Tajikstan, and Afghanistan, where I’m from, it’s spelled Nargis but it’s really all one name, pronounced and written differently in different countries.

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I am not your prototype (by Rhonda Chung)

This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

We take what we know (declarative knowledge) and we make something out of it (procedural knowledge), and if we keep doing that thing enough times, it becomes part of who we are (automaticity).

Who says cognitive science isn’t poetic?

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