NameCoach is a technology-enhanced learning tool that is designed to support inclusive teaching practices and campus communities. It allows students, faculty, and staff to share and store the proper pronunciation of their name. By enabling community members to easily and more accurately learn each other’s names and pronouns, NameCoach can help build better rapport in the classroom and beyond, bolstering students’ sense of belonging.
Three Easy Ways to Use NameCoach
Record your Name
- Feel free to include pronunciation tips and/or your pronouns in the recording!
- Record your name in your Amherst directory profile.
- Faculty can add a namecoach link to Moodle so all class participants can record their names.
Use Namecoach to Learn Others’ Names
- As you meet new students, classmates, or colleagues, check if they have a name recording in the directory.
- Faculty can add a NameCoach link to Moodle to view recordings of all class participants.
Spread the Word!
- Add your name recording link to your email signature.
- Request a custom “Name Page” for a department, group, or event.
- Encourage friends and colleagues to record their names!
How do you pronounce your name?
Behind this question lies complex themes of identity, inclusion, and respect. We thank the following Amherst community members who took the time to reflect on NameCoach, name pronunciation, and names in general, during the Spring of 2021.
Tips for Students
Class of 2021
“I spent many years trying to convince myself it didn’t matter that my peers and professors mispronounced my name, or more often, didn’t say my name at all. As Ocean Vuong says: “But without a name, things get lost.” It is crucial for students and faculty to learn to say everyone’s names, especially those that are not easily transliterated into English, in order to acknowledge our presence, worth, and humanity. NameCoach can be a start." - Seoyeon Kim
From Wise and Bright, an essay by Seoyeon Kim:
I spent my first two years in college floating through classes, learning that what hurt even more than mispronunciation was invisibility. I only allowed myself to speak in class when I was absolutely confident that I had a new point to add to the conversation. This didn’t happen very often, but when it did, most professors would avoid my eyes, addressing me as “you” (“You bring up a good idea, and…” “What you’re saying relates to what Cassie said earlier…”). How could I dare to be an “I,” when I was just a “you?” Read Full Essay on Confluences: Lost & Found in Translation
Tips for Faculty
Bruce B. Benson '43 and Lucy Wilson Benson Professor of Physics
think NameCoach is a good program that I support and is, on the whole, beneficial. I have reservations about the cultural presumptions and lack of awareness of the historical and anthropological variability on the question of names.
I come from South India where, traditionally, people had a very different view of the so called 'proper' names. Names of persons, places, and other 'proper' names in this tradition were, more often than not, actual words with meanings and received pronunciations, to a degree variable just as all language is, but not arbitrary or whimsical as dictated by the person who bears the name. One could say that, in some sense, the culture of my ancestors treats names of people as epithets - words aspirational or devotional pertaining to deities or nature whose own names are often epithets with specific meanings and pronunciation. At the same time, this culture treats names as arbitrary, and metaphysically illusory or insignificant. I kind of like that more complex cultural understanding of the role of names.
Obviously, in the context of bullying, belittling by mispronunciation of alien names, especially the names of members of the subordinated groups by those of the dominant groups, an insistence on pronouncing and spelling 'proper' names as their owners would pronounce and spell them is quite proper! That is why I support the efforts of NameCoach though I have to keep in mind its cultural naivete and presumptions about 'names' that so exercise us.
So it is not just about pronunciation, though that too plays a role. It is a broader philosophical outlook on 'names'." - Jagu Jagannathan
Related Article: Create Inclusive & Connected Learning Communities with NameCoach featuring Professor Jagannathan and other Amherst faculty.
Tips for Staff
Writing Associate and Advisor for Multilingual Students, Writing Center
“How do I pronounce my name? “How do you pronounce your name?” How do I pronounce your name? Engaging with these questions leads me to a renewed ethic of respect for others, and to an essential sense of humility. As I have spoken several languages in my life, and with several different “English” accents, I have not always said even my own name in the same way. My maternal grandmother from southern Ohio always pronounced it with just two syllables: “Em-ly.” Now I say it most naturally with a kind of middle-class “southeastern English” English accent, but often I alter the vowels just a little so that speakers of U.S. variants of English can hear it more easily.
To have one’s name misheard, mis-said, can be bothersome, or even—depending on one’s situation—downright oppressive. Because I want other people to feel heard and seen, respected and appreciated for who they are, I want always to speak other people’s names as accurately as I can. To do so, I have to listen attentively to how they say their own names and repeat those names as carefully as I can. And yet, I know I may not get it quite right. My responsibility remains, however, not to let my own linguistic shortcomings get in the way of my respecting someone else fully and wholly—by saying their name as best I can." - Emily Merriman