Teaching EAL/D learners about the pragmatics of language

EAL/D students may feel anxious about their names and the way others pronounce them. This activity can offer opportunities for students to talk about their names more openly, allow them to feel their names are valued and become more respectful of other people’s names.

Text details

Choi, Y. (2001). The Name Jar. New York: Dragonfly Books.

Text contains

The text contains opportunities to:

  • understand cultural and linguistic similarities and differences in names
  • discuss strategies for students to explain the pronunciation and spelling of words that originated from different languages.

Learning intention

We are learning that names and words can be pronounced differently from the way they are spelt.

Success criteria

I can explain how to pronounce names and words that came from different languages.

Lesson sequence

  1. Clearly articulate the learning intention.
    • Today we are learning that names and words can be pronounced differently from the way they are spelt. We are going to read a story about a Korean girl and what happened when she moved to a different country. At the end of the lesson, we are going to use her example to think of different ways we can teach people how to pronounce names and words from different languages.
  2. Provide some background knowledge about the story. The main character has just moved from Korea to a new country. She becomes shy when she realises that her new classmates find it difficult to pronounce her name.
  3. Write the name of the main character (Unhei) on the whiteboard. Ask the students how they think the name is pronounced, and justify their attempts, for example, ‘Un’ could be pronounced the same as in ‘under’ and ‘hei’ could be pronounced as ‘hey’.
  4. Read the story. Pause at the page where the main character is surrounded by children on the bus and she is teased about her name. Ask the class to brainstorm what they would say to the other children if they were Unhei in such a situation. Record the responses.
  5. Finish reading the story. Come back to the responses that the students brainstormed. Compare and discuss the effectiveness of their responses with Unhei’s own explanation – “It’s spelled U-N-H-E-I. It’s pronounced Yoon-hye.”
  6. Introduce a variety of possible situations where Unhei might need to explain her name, for example, in an email. In pairs, students brainstorm how her explanation would need to change.

Other discussion questions might include:

  • How would you correct different people when they mispronounce your name?
  • How would you apologise for getting someone’s name wrong?
  • What strategies could you use to help you remember the pronunciation of someone else’s name?
  • What are the different messages you could choose to communicate here?
  • What are different ways to express that message?

This activity can be extended to discussing words in English that are borrowed from other languages (‘orangutan’, ‘faux pas’ et cetera).

A similar text 'My Name is Sangoel' can also be used to demonstrate the strategy that Sangoel used to explain the pronunciation of his name. (Williams, K.L. & Mohammed, K. (2009). My Name is Sangoel. Cambridge: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.)

Links to the curriculum

Personal and Social Capability

Level 3 and 4: Examine the similarities and differences between individuals and groups based on factors such as sex, age, ability, language, culture and religion. For more information, see: Content description VCPSCSO020

Level 5 and 6: Explore and discuss behaviours that demonstrate sensitivity to individual, social and cultural differences. For more information see: Content description VCPSCSO029