The Spanglish-isation of Names

Trip Start Aug 26, 2009
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Trip End Aug 26, 2010


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Where I stayed
The Black Sheep Hostel

Flag of Colombia  ,
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A really, really short anecdote about the kids in my classes:

Over the space of a week I have the opportunity to take maybe 35 to 50 different kids for English classes, and maybe because this is the most Colombians I meet over a relatively short time period, one of the things I seem to take humour in is their names. I find their names funny!

Sure, there are a lot of them that have traditional latino names, like Santiago, Juan Carlos, Juan David, Valentina… etc. But there are also a number that have what appear to me to be Spanglish names like Estefania or Jeyson :) It's like their parents wanted them to have English names but have spelled them in a phonetic way, the way they are pronounced in Spanish. I also have the pleasure of teaching a Yaime, a Kerly, Yimmi, a Yiselle, Jhon and Jhonny, a Dahiana, and my personl favourite; Wilso (is it that big of a difference to drop an "n")

This in itself is enough to give me a chuckle, but funnier still is that a common question in class is 'Profe, what is my name in English please?’ This always throws me… ‘Ummm, isn’t it Jhonny???’ LOL. I kind of understand why people with names from Asian countries like to have an English name also, although I’m of the belief that Australians should learn to say their real names… but I don’t really get the need for an English translation of a Spanish name… especially when your parents have given you a Spanglish name to begin with :)

Another source of humour re: names, is that most of the kids have about 4 or 5 names each; Yaime Tatiana Maria Sanchez for example. And what the child is known by seems to have a certain flexibility about it. And is often decided by the child. On occasion the kids turn up to school having seemingly decided that they want to be known by one of their other names from now on (or perhaps until they decide otherwise :)). I’ve been caught out at least a few times, trying to follow a conversation with one of the kids when part way through I have to stop them and say, ‘I’m sorry, but WHO is Tatiana? I don’t know her…’. To which I get a roll of the eyes and a response along the lines of ‘Yes you do silly, its Yaime’… :) Two of my kids I spent the first month calling them one name, and the last few weeks calling them another…Very confusing and hilarious at the same time.

And then finally a perplexing one for me: Vanessa is very common name here, many people tell me they think it’s a latin name – support for their argument to me that I am in fact latin myself deep down LOL. It’s always pronounced with a B but never, ever, spelt with one, always a V… go figure :)
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