Do you ever have a student who can’t tell you their name? Or worse, they told you their name but it doesn’t match the VIPkid name and you didn’t catch it the first time… “Linda” who introduces herself as “Li Shen Xi” … you think… Now what?

I’ve learned a few things about names that have made a big difference:

  1. Names are important – do try to use a student’s name whenever possible.
  2. Families are SO forgiving. They “get” that we’re not Chinese speakers and they’re not going to be offended if you get it wrong. They appreciate the effort so DO YOUR BEST.
  3. The surname comes FIRST. (Women don’t take on their husbands family names, but children take their father’s family name). I just met two sisters named Chen Xi Yi and Chen Xu Yu – Chen is their family name.
  4. There are excellent resources for pinyin pronunciations (what is pinyin? It’s essentially phonetic spelling of Chinese characters using the Roman alphabet – much easier for us North Americans to navigate!)
  5. Correcting teachers is not a thing in China. You may find kids are reluctant to correct you or even repeat themselves when you didn’t catch it the first time. Repeat, bring it up throughout the lesson and if nothing else, just work with what you’ve got! If all else fails, refer to the student as “friend” or “Bao Bao” – and address it in the feedback or ask the LP for clarification!

Teacher Anna has a WONDERFUL video on facebook addressing how to get a child to say their name! On that note, the facebook group “VIPKID Chinese – SAY WHAT?” is SUPER helpful for tips in navigating Chinese language and culture! Ed Nace, one of the group moderators, has also written two EXCELLENT (and affordable) e-books to help North Americans communicate well with parents and teach ESL effectively online that I highly recommend! (No, I don’t get commission… I just love those books THAT much!)

Based on Teacher Anna’s suggestions, I’ve made a printable prop with name tags and the Chinese word for “name.” VIPkid is a full English immersion program, meaning we are not supposed to use Chinese EVER in the platform. Having said that, there are rare occasions where one word can make a huge difference, and learning a student’s name *may* be one of those times. Use at your discretion.

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