Awkward questions that I should have asked a long time ago

let me guess, Nguyen?

my last name is a pretty rare asian last name, and the romanization of it is also terribly confusing and makes little sense.

I actually purposely tell people the wrong (but simpler) pronunciation so that they can actually pronounce it. When they ask me how to actually pronounce it I tell them.

I used to just never say my last name, which was kinda awk because you’d have a bunch of white people introducing themselves with first and last names and then it’d get to me and I’d only say my first name.

No, a Japanese given name, not a Vietnamese surname.

Wow, that sucks. Especially since Japanese (when spelt out in letters) is a phonetic language and one of the easiest foreign languages to pronounce.

yup. Same with Hawaiian. People see a long hawaiian word and just glaze over, but if u just slowly pronounce one syllable at a time, it’s pretty easy

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ex. Kamakawiwo’ole

or the state fish:

(you’ll see there are two words repeated twice)


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IANAChinese speaker, but “wrong” doesn’t seem like a typical chinese name. “Wong” maybe, but then that would be spelled wrong. :thinking:

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Are you Donna Chang?


Just think of yourself like Pele

Eh, the name is Naoko. I don’t think it’s all that intuitive.

Correct pronunciation is pretty close to:

Co-workers’ initial pronunciation:

Co-workers’ later pronunciation:

*But “now” is really more like 1.25 syllables “nah-ow”

The first mispronunciation is understandable given a fairly common name (Naomi) is pronounced nay-oh. However, most other languages would pronounce “ao” as “ow” - Sao Paolo, ciao, Mao Tse Tung, Taos (New Mexico) and DAO (blockchain).

The second mispronunciation and their insistence that you are wrong - I would start to question whether I was working with the common clay of the new west.

I used to have a co-worker named Naoko. I pronounced it Nuh-oh-ko, slurring the first two syllabus. But I didn’t pronounce it very often, as I didn’t work directly with him. Oh well, sad that I got it wrong.

But vowels are hard. I never correct people if they get the vowels wrong in my name. I just consider it an accent.

Weird that your co-workers corrected you, though.

Oh, totally agree. That’s probably how I pronounced the first Naoko’s name until I was corrected.

That’s not super wrong. You definitely slur the first two syllables. I described it as 1.25 syllables.

But it starts more like “nah” than “nuh”.

Also, the two Naokos that I know are both women, and you mentioned that your former co-worker is a man.

I am not an expert, but it was my understanding that Japanese male & female names are different. So it could be that the male Naoko is pronounced totally different than the female Naoko. They might be written differently in Japanese too and only have the same Roman spelling.

So for all I know you may have been pronouncing his name perfectly. :woman_shrugging:

I’m interviewing someone tomorrow and I have no idea how to pronounce the name. Should I google it? I’m thinking I’ll just ask.

Just ask. There’s no shame in not knowing the pronunciation of a stranger’s name.


I’d probably do both with the hope that being semi-familiar with how to pronounce it before asking would help me fine tune when asking directly.