Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Roh by any other name...

If a Korean's name is actually pronounced "Ee eon hey", ("eon" is one slyllable) it may be written in English as:

Lee eon hey; Lee, eon hey; Lee eon-hey; Lee, eon-hey; Lee eonhey; Lee, Eonhey; Eon hey Lee; Eon-hey Lee; Eonhey Lee; Rhee eon hey; Rhee, eon hey; Rhee eon-hey; Rhee, eon hey; Rhee eonhey; Rhee, eonhey; Eon hey Rhee; Eon-hey Rhee; Eonhey Rhee; Yi eon hey; Yi, eon hey; Yi eon-hey; Yi, eon-hey; Yi eonhey; Yi, eonhey; Eon hey Yi; Eon-hey Yi; Eonhey Yi.

...and that's ignoring differences in capitalization. Also, in North Korea it's usually spelled "Ri".

Now consider that 45 percent of the population is named Lee, Kim, or Park (actually pronounced "Ee", "Gheem", and "Baek".)

...and there's very little chance for a Westerner to distinguish male from female names
...and some kids use English names and some don't
...and virtually everyone has a one-syllable family name and a two-syllable personal name
...and they use a completely different alphabet
...and some kids write their names in English and others in hangul.

The old canard that they all look alike is bunk. But they do all sound alike. I don't even feel a little ashamed that I can't remember the names of the vast majority of my students, but it makes building relationships harder.

At least I'm secure in my identity: Kohnmehn Seuteebeun Jeon.

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