The University of Iowa

UI Pushes Chinese Name Pronunciation Program

July 15th, 2015

CBS2/FOX28 reports on the University of Iowa's Chinese name pronunciation program for staff and faculty. See the full video broadcast.

KGAN-TV reports on the UI's Chinese name pronunciation program

Professors at the University of Iowa are seeing more Chinese students in their classrooms, so they’re taking extra steps to make them feel comfortable.

“There’s a growing middle class in China that has the ability to look around for great institutions to send their children,” Jennifer Blair, global community engagement director, said. “The University of Iowa is one of many, many institutions in the country that is receiving a lot more Chinese students.” With different cultural backgrounds comes different challenges, one being language barriers.

Ya Qiong is a Chinese student that moved to the United States in 2012 to begin her studies in psychology. She chooses to go by her English name, Irene, because it’s easier for her professors and other classmates to pronounce.

“Something that students would say to me anecdotally was that they sometimes feel like they’re just a number,” Pamela Bourjaily, Frank Business Communications Center director, said. “They would say their name and the staff member couldn’t understand it, so they would just say ‘give me your ID.’”

Qiong admitted that she knows people have trouble with her name because it’s “particularly difficult,” but she hopes her university’s Chinese name pronunciation program will help her professors feel confident enough to address her by her real name. The program pairs Chinese-speaking student tutors with faculty and staff in one-on-one sessions at the beginning of every semester.

“I still don’t pronounce names perfectly, I know that, but I definitely see that the students appreciate that we try to pronounce their names correctly,” Kevin Den Adel, an accountant lecturer, said. The program is also aimed at helping international students feel like a part of the UI community, instead of outcasts.

“My Chinese name is my real name and I want my professors, my classmates to know who I am by my real name, not my English name,” Qiong said. “I think it’s a way to show respect and I feel cared for.”