Friday, August 5, 2011

What's In A Name, Sir?

This was posted on the August 2, 2011 Japan Probe website:
I've not had that much experience with this particular site, but it seems quite cool.

Here's what they had to say on the topic of how to say your name in Japan: Surname first and then given name OR given name first and then surname? IE: Joseph Andrew or Andrew Joseph.
In Japan, China, Korea et al, the Family name (Surname) is written and spoken first, with the Given name (if at all) following.
My name is "Andrew Joseph" outside of the Asian countries.
However, whenever I introduced myself in Japan, I said my name as: "Joseph Andrew".

To help us stupid gaijin (foreigners) out, or perhaps to differentiate us from the real teachers, us JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme teachers were called by the Japanese as such: Andrew-sensei (literally Andrew teacher) knowing that non-Asians prefer to be called by their given name rather than their surname. The teacher appellation was a form of respect, as teachers were/are still considered to be in a respected

However... there is now an interesting conundrum going on in Japan's education system with regards to teaching English and the proper way to say your name.

Apparently in the junior high school English text book New Horizons (I used a version or two back in 1990-1993), students were encouraged to use a Westernized style of self-introduction (IE: George Washington), but that the new direction of the New Horizons textbooks says one should introduce themselves the Asian way (Washington George) - but for Japanese names, of course.

The text book is going to screw things up. However, Japan Probe seems to have the right idea. Here's what Japan Probe had to say on the matter:

Introducing yourself as “Takeshi Tanaka” is “old-fashioned” English.Now, you should introduce yourself as “Tanaka Takeshi.” [Family namefirst, in the way one says names when speaking Japanese.]
As proof, they cite the New Horizons English textbook, which nowteaches junior high school students to introduce themselves in the“new” style. This “new” style is based on the nationalistic way thatIndians and Koreans speak English. Saying one’s family name firstsupposedly shows “respect” for Japanese culture.
There’s a thread over at BigDaikon in which some ALTs discuss thename order issue. Those that actually care about helping their studentslearn proper English seem to think that the “new” style will causeunnecessary confusion. For example, here’s a comment from lifer:
The whole name order debate gets a bit tedious. Whateverthe Chinese or Koreans do is irrelevant. Plus, lots of Ks and Cs have a‘western’ name that they use when communicating in English, or livingabroad for any length of time. So, Chan Yo In becomes Winston Chan, orKim Sae Bon becomes Gilbert Kim when they are in Eigo World.
It’s really very simple to solve. Just mention the “when in Rome”proverb, but change it to “when speaking Roman…”. When you speakEnglish, you use English conventions and customs. When you speakJapanese, you use Japanese language and customs. Otherwise, confusionreigns. When I introduce myself in Japanese, I use Japanese namingconvention and introduce myself as “last name, first name”, or simply“last name”.
People are free to introduce themselves any way they like, but arealso responsible for any confusion that results. So, if a Japaneseperson rocks up to a hotel in gaijinland and says, “hi, I have areservation, my name is Tanaka Hiroshi”, he shouldn’t be surprised ifthe clerk comes back with “sorry, we don’t have a reservation for you,Mr. Hiroshi”.
I think Monkasho is trying to make yet another false binaryparadigm- Japan vs. gaikoku. In Japan, we do it this way, but ingaikoku it is done another way. Since we are Japanese, in Japan, wewill follow the Japanese way. Education takes a back seat to culturalinsecurity.
My opinion: Japan’s Ministry of Education should not encourage theuse of this “new” naming order. The United States, Great Britain,Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and other English-speaking nationsstill use the “old” name order for Japanese people, so it’s stupid toprint textbooks instructing Japanese students to adopt the “new”system.

Joseph Andrew-san is back (I'm no longer a teacher! Just call me mister or miss or missus!) Thank you very much Japan Probe!

I think lifer hit the nail on the head. When in Rome, or in this case, Japan, and are learning how to speak English... it is best that they follow the laws of the land.
Hello... my name is Andrew Joseph.
Hello... my name is Akiko Watanabe.

Now that's the way to learn how to speak English!
Cripes when us gaijin (foreigners) come to Japan, we don't call people by their first name and then surname: Hello Akiko  Watanabe. In Japan, that's wrong... but when you Japanese get out of your country and are visiting Canada to see Anne of Green Gables house, feel free to say your name the non-Asian way: Hell... my name is Akiko Watanabe.

There... I hope that helps... or did I contradict myself?

Speaking as a gaijin whose names could be a surname or a given name... this is an important topic. Just remember... when in Rome do as the Romans do. When in New York, do as the New Yorkers so. When in Manilla, do as the Filipino do. When in Copenhagen, do as the Danes do. And, when in Tokyo, do as the Japanese do... unless you are speaking ENGLISH... then do it the non-Asian way!

Got it? I hope so!

HOWEVER: Go back and look at that 1st paragraph from Japan Probe. In it, it says that Koreans and Indians say our surname first (like the Japanese).

Really? Perhaps I'm a piss poor example of an Indian, but we (India) are a  former British colony and pretty much always say our name like they do in the US and Canada et al. Andrew Joseph.

Perhaps they misspoke, and meant to write Koreans and Chinese. I can see how that mistake could occur, as the Chinese and Indians do look alike.


Somewhere I am Joseph Andrew (and maybe Chinese!),
Andrew Joseph
PS: I am a Canadian of Indian descent who lived in Japan.

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