Dilemmas in Nomenclature

March 2, 2013 § 18 Comments

I have a question for all of you who have lived in or are living in Korea now… What do you do about your names? Now, for all you Dans and Kates and Toms and all other lucky people out there with sounds that don’t deviate too much from the 한국어sphere, this isn’t too much of an issue. But for my “ph” brothers and sisters, my short-and-long vowelers, my v-ers and ch-ers and combined consonanters,  어떻게요?

The first option, of course, is to keep it. “Sopie,” though, sounds as awkward in Korean as it does in English, and 소피 essentially means “cow blood.” (Charming).

The second is to take a native name. This is what every international friend I have met has done here. It spares a lot of pronunciational grief both on the native tongue and foreign ears. But, I feel that this would be a pretty ridiculous route for an English teacher to take, so, strike that one out.

The third possibility, (and the one that I’m leaning toward), is to borrow a Korean-friendly name relatively close to my own. Sonia, for example. A little strange, but it would work. On second thought, why stop at Sonia when I could be Bam Bam? Hmmmm…

So, you 다비드s and 사라s,  이단s and 오리비야s, 조세프s and 크리스틴s– What did you do? And you lucky Nicks and Mias, what’s your opinion?


Tagged: , , , ,

§ 18 Responses to Dilemmas in Nomenclature

  • Chicken Fried Comics says:


  • gwen says:

    I would just keep your name the way it is. Korean people will be really confused by you using a Korean, and even more confused if your Western friends are not also calling you by that name. Also, Korean is a language full of homonyms, so it’s really no big deal. The way they say coffee (kopi) is exactly the same way they say nose blood/bleed, yet they haven’t bothered to rename it. =)

    • O, taking a Korean one would be extremely awkward and was never really a possibility, I just wanted to write out the options :). If I took another western name, I would just introduce myself as that, period, (to western friends as well). To be honest, I’m trying to wriggle out of being called Sopie or Sopia for a year! I didn’t realize the 코피/ 커피 thing–That’s interesting.

  • 소피…that’s one of those unfortunate translations. I knew a Korean American named Peter who commented his name meant “bloody” in Korean (피 있다). As for my name, I usually go with 데이빗.

    • Haha oh no! But I guess there is a pretty strong mental divide, or he/his parents wouldn’t have chosen it. Though, I had a friend named Bob who taught abroad. His students all called him “Rice Teacher.”
      That’s a really clear way of spelling David. Do most people pronounce it that way? I was actually prompted to write this because of Park Shin Hye’s pronunciation of your name as “Dappid-uh” in something I was watching yesterday.

  • Stephanie says:

    Ahahaha, I didn’t really think about this that much, but yes – I am Stephanie. For reals? Step? I’m a step? Step-ah-ni? Yes, that’s pleasant. ^^

    That reminds me of when I was taking Spanish class in high school – they always made us take a Spanish name to use throughout the semester, so I’m actually familiar with responding to a different, but similar name (usually Silvia or, oddly enough, Sofia ^^)

  • I’m Zoe, which comes out as Joey in hangul, which is a boy’s name. I had a lot of explaining to do with that one. I just made my students pronounce my name properly. I figured if they’re trying to learn English, may as well start with learning how to make a Z sound correctly.

  • HY says:

    Hello. I am HY from Korea. yes, your name means in Korea is cow blood, 소피. But when I pronouce your name, it sounds more likely 쏘피. I could not imagin that Sophie could sound like 소피 until you mentioned here. Do not worry about it :-)

  • mine isn’t too bad in korean: 불 아 이 으 니, but it is kind of complicated. all of those american dipthongs in the middle have to be separated. so i’m just going with 불 이 . easy peasy

  • HY says:

    Check out this video. Hope it is helpful to you!

  • HY says:

    oh gosh, i was trying to post this! Enjoy!

  • TheZingR says:

    I don’t study Korean (or know any Korean at all, actually!), but I just started following this blog because of how relevant many of your posts are to my Mandarin study. I have a somewhat similar problem in Mandarin, because the two syllables in my name, Rene, sound very similar in Mandarin and basically form a tongue twister. And to top it off, the most flattering characters I could find form a meaning of “inside in buffalo.” Sigh…
    What’s worked for me in the past is just throwing my name out there and seeing how it gets morphed by the locals. I’ve found that they tend to try for the least awkward pronunciation possible. It isn’t a foolproof strategy, but I’ve done alright with it so far. Great post!

    • Rough break on “Inside in Buffalo” ;)
      Thanks for the follow! I’m very impressed with your Mandarin study. Korean is complicated, but to me Mandarin seems just about impossible. It’s great that you’re able to figure that out. Good luck!

  • If it comes up, write the cow-blood, but in many instances you can get away with writing your name in English and with being a stickler about the pronunciation. The /f/ sound is an important one that most of your kids will probably need practice with, anyway.

    Don’t take a Korean name, but not because it’s awkward or anything. I had a number of friends who suggested some for me, and suggested maybe it would make me feel more confident in the language if I had a basic unit of my self also tied to it in normal conversation… but for me, it was always important that I took ownership of my learning. You don’t have to be a Haesu or a Jikwon to be able to speak Korean; Sophies and Michaels and Davids can do it as well if they put in the work. (This is tied to what I generally did with my students. If they had an English name that they wanted me to use for some reason I would, but I generally was a stickler for saying and pronouncing their Korean names, and providing them the best possible transliterations of their names into Roman characters. This also ties back into schools in Canada and how some parents often felt pressure to give their kids less Asian-y names for school so that they didn’t stick out/the teacher didn’t regular mangle their poor kid’s name. The Kindergarten teachers I worked with [the year that the school names generally got installed] tried hard to work against this, because learning someone’s actual name is a basic modicum of respect that everyone deserves, even if it might be hard, it’s on you to try.]

    Wow that went long.

  • Timah says:

    My given name, Fatimah, encounters difficulty in North America as well. In Hangul, it turns into Patima (파티마) and non-English speakers have some trouble pronouncing the F. Luckily, I use my nickname (Timah/티마 ) with most people back home and abroad.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am “Dare” teacher, to every one of my students. Which is hiliarious to them because its the same way they pronounce “There,” “They’re” and “Their.” I thought about giving them something easier but decided changing it at this point would cause far too much confusion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Dilemmas in Nomenclature at Via Korea.


%d bloggers like this: