Top 5 Reasons for and against Spanish names

Top 5 Reasons you should and should not give your students Spanish namesOne of our more popular posts is about an issue that most Spanish teachers are divided on. I recently asked a Spanish teacher group on facebook if they give their students Spanish names and to give their reasons and the response was split. This post is probably not going to change your mind one way or another, but maybe give you some insight on why other teachers do things, or give you support for the way you do things. I do find that while the polls seem split 50-50, more teachers who do not give names state their reason for doing so.

Below are the top 5 reasons you should and should not give your students a “Spanish name”.

Top 5 reasons for giving your students Spanish names:

  1. It’s easier to pronounce a name that is already in Spanish when you are speaking Spanish.
  2. Your personality changes in a second language. It allows students to explore and connect to their different persona.
  3. It helps students learn about Spanish names and help with pronunciation. It exposes students to names that they otherwise wouldn’t hear and so the next time they see “Jorge” they will know it’s not pronounced George.
  4. It immerses the students in the language and culture. The environment of the class is like “walking into a different world”. Having a new name is another part of that experience.
  5. The students enjoy it. Students love picking a new name and embracing this name. Some may even call each other their Spanish names outside of class.

Giving Spanish names in classWhy not to give Spanish names

Top 5 reasons for not giving your students Spanish names:

  1. Students learning English (or any other language) worldwide do not give themselves “American names” (or whatever target-culture names).
  2. Students don’t get new names for other classes, why is Spanish different?
  3. Too many names to memorize. From a teacher’s standpoint, you are doubling the names you have to remember, which is a hard enough task already.
  4. Your name is your name. You don’t completely change your name when you travel to another country. Sure, the pronunciation might be a little bit different (Yessica vs. Jessica), or if there is a similar name (Juan instead of John) but your name doesn’t go from Brittany to Margarita.
  5. It’s not culturally sensitive. If you are not hispanic, why pretend by using a hispanic name? Do you agree with the practice of immigrants having their names changed at Ellis Island to sound “more American”? And for those with latino students already in class, it seems a bit awkward.

I thought about making a counter point for each of the 10 reasons listed above, but maybe I’ll leave that for the comments section. Have at it!

Tell us your reason in the comments below. Or check out our previous discussion.


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19 Responses to Top 5 Reasons for and against Spanish names

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well, if they have an equivalent in Spanish, then yes, pronounce it in Spanish so they know when they are going to a spanish-speaking country how he is going to be called… or at least let then know they have an equivalent. But if there is none.. then I will stick with the original name.

  2. Brigette says:

    When I was in high school, we had “Spanish” names. At that time, there was no Spanish ever heard in out area. It was truly a foreign language and I do think hearing those names was of value. Now I teach in the same area. Over 50% of our students are Hispanic and I do not feel there is any value at all in using “Spanish” names in class and actually feel it is a bit insulting. Some years I do have my students choose names, partly as a filler for the first couple of days when students’ schedules are getting switched around and such. I give them lists to choose from. The lists have animals, foods, flowers, colors, sports, and other things the kids are interested in. A class may have a Jirafa, a Mariposa, a Fruta, a Beisbol. No one can choose a name that has already been chosen in their class or another. I do let them come up with their own, but I must approve it. The discussion is great. I even hear them in the halls finding out what names have been chosen for other classes. They really work hard on choosing one they like and pronouncing it (and making sure others say it right). We then branch into spelling the names, making posters, introductions using new names, descriptions with size and color, etc. Later in the year, they can use these names for other fun projects.

  3. Andrea says:

    I always LOVED getting a Spanish (and when I was in French class, a French) name! Chantal is a beautiful name and it was fun to be called that for an hour of my day. I agree with all of the points above, except for #1 on the “not” list. Chinsese students who come to the US often times have an Anglo- name that is completely different from their given name. Granted, I think they do this so we Americans have hope of pronouncing it correctly, but they do do it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I do let the kids pick names. We research Hispanics with that name to see what types of personalities and contributions their namesakes have made. This gives us a reason to talk about those that speak Spanish. The kids in my small school really like using their names even in the hallways. I have a little over 1/2 of the kids in the HS that take Spanish. They like trying to talk to each other and not having everyone understand them. We use this for a cultural discussion too. It was really interesting to read the reasons against. I will be especially sensitive to the idea of Hispanic students owning their culture and not stepping on their feelings. Right now we do not have any native speakers in the HS. I think we’ll talk about the concept before we go out for our club activities though, where we do interact.

  5. getspanished says:

    Actually, yes, they do give new names in some English classes. My friend Ma Hua became Simon in his English class in China. My friend Carol got her name the same way. And yes, I did change my name to Josefina when I traveled to Mexico. Otherwise it was hard to know when people were saying my name it just saying, “Yo sí.” And I find it very interesting that every Latino student I’ve had in class has chosen a different “Spanish” name for my class just because they could. So the only real reason against this practice is that teachers think it’s too much trouble to learn them.

  6. I absolutely hate giving Spanish names to my students. There are other ways to help them practice pronunciation. If my students write the translation of their names in Spanish or give themselves Spanish names, which they have done, then I ask them what they prefer and I follow their lead.The reasons I have been given when they do this is because their previous teacher did it, so they kept it. I agree with all five points against it.

  7. jlategan says:

    When I learnt French in highschool, we did not get French names. Yet we enjoyed the class, could engage and managed to learn the language– and I think I prefer this teaching approach. However, in my first semester of German at Uni, we created whole “German identities,” with names, jobs and a German hometown (which we had to research). I think there is merit to this approach: we certainly felt more immersed in German. Since we created wholly fictionalised “identities” for the class, it was also less awkward for cultural Germans who took the course.

  8. I learned Spanish but didn’t bother getting a Spanish name. For chinese I did get a name: Li Xiaolong – which is Bruce Lee’s name in Madarin – ya aprendi el espanol pero no eligi un nombre espanol, por el chino, mi nombre es Li Xiaolong es el nombre de Bruce Lee en Mandarin – wo yijing xuexiguo xibanyayu keshi wo meiyou xibanyayu de mingzi, keshi wode zhongwen mingzi jiao li xiaolong

  9. Pingback: World Language Class Name Idea: Birth Announcements! | La Clase de la Señora Dentlinger

  10. Kathleen Pepin says:

    After taking students on an exchange program to France, I found that the French students were not getting names in English class. So I thought, wow, why am I making myself to learn double names?? So I was going to stop and my daughter said that it was t he best thing about Spanish class. So I continued to do it. And, worse for me, they didn’t have to take the Spanish (French, German) equivalent, and that make it extra hard to remember.

  11. Colby says:

    I’m glad someone has posted about this topic. In every high school Spanish class that I took, I got a Spanish name. Yeah, it was cool then, but now I have changed my viewpoint. I won’t give my students Spanish names because I want them to know that you can be a “Bobby” or “Jane” and still speak another language. You don’t have to be “Alonso” or “Antonia” in order to speak Spanish. I can see myself pronouncing their English names in a Spanish accent so that they hear what it sounds like, but they will keep their names. I felt like such a grinch until now! I’m not the only one! 🙂

  12. Susan Elder says:

    I give my students new identities–they don’t have to choose a name–they may–but they get a new home town. The first years have cities in Germany, and the second years have cities in Austria or Switzerland. They get a “passport” and throughout the year, they create themselves through that country and city. For example, when we study hobbies and sports, they “join” a team or a club from their cities. I used to make everyone get a name, but it was challenging when speaking with parents or counselors. They would ask about “Billy” who was “Johann” in my class and I would come off as not knowing my students.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I used to give students Spanish names, and many came to middle school with their elementary school Spanish names….and then, for all the same,exact reasons you mentioned I discontinued the practice. I see 240 students over 2 days. It is impossible to create new names and learn them. If a student has a name that has a Spanish equivalent (Miguel, Tomas, Amanda, Alejandra, Raquel etc) then I use it but to me, it seems silly for Kylie to be Susana,etc….

  14. Lois Moon says:

    I took French in JHS & HS and my first teacher named her classes. These names stuck all the way through HS and I have a few friends (30+ years later) to whom we still refer by their French class names! I let my students decide if they want Spanish class names. I don’t teach Spanish 1 so students usually come to me “named.” I write their roster name on one end of a popsicle stick and their Spanish class name and class period on the other. I use these each class to call on students. It helps me learn names and it helps me to connect the names. If a student doesn’t want to use the Spanish class name, they tell me and I mark the stick accordingly. I have many Latinos in my classes (my school offers heritage speaker courses, but many Latino students in our area no longer learn Spanish at home) and some of them take a Spanish class name and some who have names like Ashley and Trent really enjoy selecting a name. My sister-in-law, who is Mexican, teaches English in Mexico and her classes frequently have an English class name.

    Perhaps I am more for Spanish class names because my name, Lois, causes so many pronunciation and identity issues in Spanish. My husband who is from Mexico and his family who live in Mexico find my name difficult to pronounce and it sounds too close to Luis for them. They call me Luisa.

  15. lamaestraglebe says:

    i love the idea of using the popsicle sticks with both the Spanish class name and the students roster name. I teach Spanish at the elementary level and have always given the students Spanish names. This year I will be teaching all grades from K-5 and was thinking of abandoning Spanish names. Your idea will make having Spanish names more manageable, and will definitely help me to learn their “English” names-which as been a problem in the past.
    Muchas gracias!

  16. Sean Paul says:

    The article is fine and even though this point is still valid, the one about Ellis island is false. I looked it up because I was under the impression that wise immigrants would change their names to sound more American themselves. So it turns out that neither happened, the names were almost always taken down by the shipping company and if anything the officials at Ellis island would help make corrections. This is coming from a Smithsonian article I found after a quick google. With all the tension surrounding immigration laws today I just wanted to dispel the myth presented in this harmless list of reasons for and against reassigning names. Also, I took French in high school and we chose French names which in my opinion was a positive experience for all. And why would a Hispanic child be in Spanish class?? They’re just looking for an easy a, get out of there!

    • lamaestraglebe says:

      How can I escape from this conversation? It’s been going on for 2 years, and I am sick of it.

    • Ingeborg S. Nordén says:

      “They’re just looking for an easy A, get out of there”…I’m reminded of _Cheech & Chong’s Nice Dreams_; the title characters were ad-libbing a song about things Chicanos do, one of which was indeed “take Spanish and make A’s and B’s”. Still, a few Latin kids in a Spanish class will speak mostly English with family or non-school friends. Those few are genuinely working to improve; they shouldn’t get chased away by stereotype-snarling teachers!

  17. Ingeborg S. Nordén says:

    P.S. My own linguistic specialty is not Spanish, but the Nordic languages; in the US, very few people learning those are heritage speakers — let alone children in public schools. Ethnic “classroom names” are unthinkable in a college-level Swedish or Norwegian course (which usually has enough students to count on two hands, at most). If the professors in second- and third-year Swedish classes can use everybody’s real name, why can’t teachers in a high-school Spanish class? We all learned our first language as our ordinary selves, and most of us can do the same with a second or third.

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