#AtoZChallenge 2021 – I am Yinglan


Credit: Sozo Today

Whenever someone asks, “How do you pronounce your name?”, I would often tell them, “The ‘Y’ is silent and ‘lan’ is pronounced like Lana without the ‘a’ at the end.” Some will still say it wrong and it drives me absolutely off the wall. It really isn’t that hard.

I’ve heard all combination of my name’s enunciation from England to Inglane to Inglong to Inglang to some doesn’t even try.

At my high school graduation, as we stood in line, we were given a little piece of paper to write the pronunciation of our names. Standing before me in line, my friend, Ariel, saw my confused look and said, “I think it should be ‘Ing lawn’.” I knitted my brows as if to ask are you sure. After seconds of consideration, I write “Ing Lawn” on my paper. Close enough, I thought.

In 2012, I started teaching Chinese International students ESL (short for English-as-a-Second-Language) and on the first day, they asked, “Hey teacher, don’t you have an English name?”

“No,” I said.

“Why not?” They asked in Mandarin.

“I don’t know.” I replied in English, “And we try to speak English in this class.” I had no clue what the obsession with getting an English name. Don’t they like their name? All my students had old-school English names from Harry to Niko to Peter to Frank. Who gave them these names anyway?

Fast forward five years, I was finally done with my two college degrees and when I was interviewing for my first full-time accounting job with an Asian-operated hay factory, the first thing the CEO tried to do was pronounce my name. He took a deep breath and said my name with a question mark. I did not think it was going to be problem for him since he’s from China and my name is your standard pinyin (Chinese phonetics).

He asked some questions and then he stood up. “Welcome to the team.” He said and shook my hand. “And get an English name.” He walked out of the room, leaving me aghast and puzzled. Is my name a deal-breaker? What will happen if I don’t get an English name?

During my first day at my new job, my co-worker told me to choose an English name. When I asked why I need an English name, another co-worker chimed in, “Because you’re in America and Americans have English names.”

That’s it? That’s the reason?

Well, what if I was born here to Japanese parents and they named me Miko? Do I need to change my name to something more English like Laura or Stephanie?

What a stupid reason to have to change one’s name, I thought.

But then, another thought hit me, what if I get an English name as an alias, like a pen name? After all, who knows how long I would be at this job. I wouldn’t want anyone searching me on the internet. And I also didn’t want to be fired on my first day. Mom said no one will hire someone who’s been fired.

After much consideration, I went with April. It was the name I used to use as an alias for my email many moons ago, maybe when I was 13 or 14. I felt stupid for giving into the pressure and didn’t feel the name suited me at all.

I lasted a little over 7 months in that place and when I finally quit, I felt I got a part of my identity back.

I am and forever will be named Yinglan.

Theme: Of all the things I am

Click here to see all the #AtoZChallenge posts so far.

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

6 thoughts on “#AtoZChallenge 2021 – I am Yinglan

  1. Is there an inflection in the pronunciation of your name? Living in Thailand for several years, I never really became conversant in Thai. But not for lack of effort. While I could eventually get the gist of conversations, and I could even read some common expressions, my attempts at speaking were either incomprehensible or just embarrassing. The problem was hearing, and properly producing inflections. My husband, who speaks fluent Mandarin, has even mentioned that his Cantonese is terrible primarily due to the additional inflections.

    Regardless, don’t change your name. Just don’t take it personally if people screw it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, there is but I’m so used to people saying it flat that it actually felt strange when I visited China in 2017 and hear government officials say my name in Mandarin. The first time I heard it, I didn’t even respond because it didn’t sound like what I’ve been hearing for almost the last 2 decades in the U.S.
      When I became a citizen, my mom asked if I wanted to change my name. I was 14 and so glad I didn’t because over the years, my Chinese name has somewhat become my English name as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can totally relate, my name is Turkish and sounds awful when people read it with their various English pronunciations. I go by a shortening of my name at work as it’s just easier. But it’s always very refreshing when someone pronounces my full name correctly. I’m happy you’ve got your name back and good for you for not wanting to conform to the system. Your name is part of your identity and you have every right to keep it. ⭐️💛

    Liked by 1 person

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