Jul 232013

The Boy Who Could Not Say His Own Name - Alldonemonkey.comIt seemed like such a good idea at the time: give our baby boy a special name that would connect him to my husband.  We didn’t want to give him the exact same name, so instead we gave Monkey the same middle name as my husband.  It is one of my favorite names in Spanish, and having the same middle name as his father is like a hidden treasure wrapped up inside him.

Except that Monkey can’t pronounce it.  Not really.

Lately, Monkey has been very interested in learning everyone’s names.  I think every child thrills at discovering that his parents are not just “Mommy” and “Daddy” but have names, and he gets a kick out of hearing anyone call us by them.

So we have been talking more about names in general, including his full name, which he had always heard but never really tried to say.

As I have discussed previously, Monkey prefers to speak English, although more and more he is asking my husband how to say things in Spanish, and when they spend time together without me, he is more likely to reply to my husband in Spanish.

Yet still, Monkey has told me several times recently that Spanish is what Daddy speaks, while he and Mommy and Baby speak English.  (Keeping in mind, of course, that Baby doesn’t actually speak yet 😉 ).

It is clear that Monkey understands everything said to him in Spanish, and he often does nearly instantaneous translations of what my husband says.  But because Monkey doesn’t speak Spanish much, when he does, it’s with a bit of an accent.

And so, like many English speakers, he has trouble with those infamous Spanish r’s: the rolled ones, of course, are the biggest problem.  For Monkey they tend to come out more like l’s, so “carro” (car) becomes something like “cahlo.”

The Boy Who Could Not Say His Own Name - Alldonemonkey.com

But even the single r’s are troublesome, since in Spanish they are flipped.  The closest equivalent we have in English is the “d” sound in “Eddie.”  These aren’t quite as difficult as the rolled r’s, but still they aren’t easy.  Monkey sometimes pronounces them like an “l,” or sometimes in a consonant cluster the “r” becomes more like a “w,” as in “tres,” which he says more like “twes.”  (“Cuatro” becomes “cwat-lo.”)

As you might have guessed with all the build up, there is a flipped “r” in Monkey’s middle name, and so he has trouble saying it.

In fairness, he can’t really pronounce my name either, and it’s in English.  Lots of little kids have trouble with my name, I think because of the double vowel sound.  They usually try to resolve it into a single vowel sound (Monkey says “Lana” instead of “Leanna”), or they add an extra consonant so that the “e” and “a” aren’t together anymore (as in “Lee-lana” or “Lee-nana”).

So how much does it really matter?  Monkey is only three, and there are many words in English that he still pronounces in that adorable little boy accent (“yellow” becomes “hello” and “helicopter” becomes “dacocter”).  Still, when someone can’t pronounce his own name, it raises questions about why the parents gave the poor child such a difficult name.

But I am hoping that as Monkey grows he will come to appreciate his beautiful middle name, and that it will become a hidden treasure, wrapped up inside him, a symbol of his heritage and a tie to his father and his father’s homeland.  A treasure that, hopefully, he will one day be able to pronounce.

This post has been shared at Best4Future’s Wednesday link-up party.

  20 Responses to “The Boy Who Could Not Say His Own Name”

  1. I just love the way little kids mispronounce words. A age 3 I’m pretty sure Svara was still not pronouncing her own name correctly either. First it was Wawa, then Swawa. At age 6 she has a couple words that she says incorrectly and we don’t correct her since they are cute (lemolade and vasagna) and they will be gone too soon

    • Thanks for this perspective, Honey! You are right, one day I will really miss these little mispronunciations!

  2. Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much. My 4yo sprout also has an accent in Portuguese, but it actually seems to be getting gradually better. And the r’s still aren’t clear in any language (except maybe French… It seems to be an easier r sound for him). And he still has a hard time saying his last names (Portuguese) as well. He’ll eventually be able to master it!

    • Thanks, Sandra! That is good to hear! I’m sure this will all even out as our boys get older.

  3. Lovely story. I hope your kids have a large Spanish-speaking circle. One of the reasons our daughter doesn’t speak German is because there was nobody else around she could speak German to while English is everywhere. Of course, Spanish is a lot more widespread, so hopefully you will have a lot more luck!

    • Thanks, Natalie! Yes, luckily we do have many Spanish-speakers nearby, although since they also speak English, that is what tends to dominate conversation! Definitely worth making more of an effort here.

  4. For the longest time, Sky called himself Cy and Benjamin called himself Enji rather than Benji. Sky loved that because he would call Benjamin Engine (like a train!)

    • I love your name! I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before, but I would have pronounced it correctly. My name is Honey. When I was growing up it made so many people uncomfortable that they’d call me Honey Beth (Beth is my middle name). Starting in middle school I told people that I only go by Honey, too bad if they didn’t like it, I liked it!

    • Oh how sweet! I especially love “Engine”!

  5. My son Damian had troubles with Rs when he was 3 too. He’s five now and his pronunciation is pretty darn good for a 5 year old. Names are truly a big deal so i totally get where you’re coming from. My parents named me Vanita after my father’s sister who died when they were young. He wanted to honor her. No one never thought it would be difficult for NYC teachers and kids to pronounce. I’ve been called Vah-net-ta, vendetta, and vanilla. Should be pronounced Vah-nee-tah. I once had a boss who had so much trouble pronouncing my name he decided to just rename me Vivian. :-l But even with all that, for so many years, I do love my name.

    • Thanks, Vanita! That is good to hear that your son’s pronunciation is so much better now. And funny that as parents we are so careful with choosing our children’s names, but no matter how simple they seem to us, someone will always find a way to mispronounce them!

  6. So sweet! I love that Monkey has decided that Baby speaks English.

    • Yes, I loved that! Chances are he will be right, since Baby adores his big brother 🙂

  7. I can’t help but laugh a little when I read this, because as a Speech Pathologist I have noticed that almost any child I see who is missing a letter sound in his pronunciation repertoire has that very same sound in his name! Can’t say L’s? Then your name is probably William. No H? Then you’re name is almost certainly Henry. No R sound, you must be named Robert. You and your son are not alone in this one!!!

  8. […] Choosing a name for your new child is always an important decision, especially so if you are trying to reflect more than one culture.  The name All Done Monkey chose for her son has turned out to have more importance than most as you can read in The Boy who Couldn’t Say his Own Name. […]

  9. My monkey daughter prefers to speak English too. She doesn’t have a Chinese name. I thought about it and couldn’t find a right one for her. But my twins each has a Chinese nickname. Yes, in the future I need to give each of my daughters a Chinese name. It represents a connection to Chinese culture. Thank you for sharing!

    By the way, you are more than welcome to link-up with me with any posts you have, past or present, about multi-lingual living (parenting, teaching, learning, resources), or anything relating to family, children, and education. Just click “Add your link” and copy/paste the URL of your blog post at http://www.best4future.com/blog/best4future-wednesday-link-up-party-1. Keep in touch!

    • Thank you! I am sure they will really appreciate that special connection to Chinese culture. And thanks for the tip about your linkup party!

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