If you stand in any classroom in Madrid, and possibly Spain, a strange thing is happening.
You stand facing your students, explaining a grammar point, and they all look back at you with brown eyes and sallow skin, a look that betrays that these students are unmistakably Spanish. Yet, they answer to Anglicized versions of their name.
I, for one, don’t like it.
Who Are Ya?
I met an English guy over the weekend. He was in Madrid with his fiance and they were friends of my friend.
He is a teacher who, if one of his students is verging on being racist, he asks what their name is. He has studied names and he can make a guess at how long that person’s DNA has existed in England. He also mentioned that National Geographic has charted how his own family reached England, tracking the progress of his people from Africa to Europe.
The point is this: we have more in common than we think, and our very names are proof of this.
More than a name…
Names are a wonderful thing. They can conjure up romantic associations if you are madly in love, or insightful characteristics, such as plain Jane or Tim nice but dim.
How we identify ourselves can have a surprising impact on our lives. People called Louis – that includes you, Mr Theroux – are more likely to live in places like Lousiville, while the same can be said of Virginias in Virginia and Philips in Phillipsville.
Furthermore, people in group projects will trust others with names similar to their own over those with a more distinct denomination. Your initials will also be your favourite letters of the alphabet!
It doesn’t end there. The implicit egotism behind these unconscious decisions makes it more likely that you’ll be a lawyer if your name is, well, Larry.
Name Your Future
Madrid is leading the way in bilingual education through a variety of policies and initiatives but the gains made through learning English should not come at the cost of losing Spanish culture.
My housemate, for example, is studying for the Cambridge Advanced and she was told to tone down her Spanish accent, an accent which is not strong or unclear but rather beautiful and in keeping with her cultural and national milieu.
Names have the power of myths and they suggest our personal and collective stories. That’s why I prefer teaching a Ricardo than a Spanish lad calling himself Richard.
Thank you for reading!