“… your name please?”
“You are a Bengali right? Obhijit, Obhishek… ‘O’s everywhere”.The guy burst out in laughter thinking how funny he was.
As a Bengali working in a multural cultural workplace I am used to these stereotypes. Today I want to take this opportunity to explain everything that is wrong in this scenario.
Many of the languages in India are originated from Sanskrit. There are many words that have made their way to the descendant language with difference in pronounciation and form. The equivalent words sound different under the influence of the new language. As a native Hindi-speaker one person is familiar with a name say, Pragya. They pronounce it in a certain way. I don’t have a say in the aspect how one word is pronounced in languages other than Bengali. I don’t find it funny if somebody is pronouncing his/her name in a certain way.
I don’t mind if somebody pronounces my name wrong(wrong is a relative term here), because they are not familiar with my language. But I have an objection if somebody says that I’m doing it wrong. Every language is different and beautiful in its own way. It’s better to respect those differences.
There are so diversity in pronounication even in one language being spoken in different part of the country or different part of world. Once I was watching a youtube video and a lady was saying that almond should be pronounced as uh-mond(l silent), many native English speaker complained saying “But in our country we call it almond(l is not silent)”. If somebody sees the name Kjellberg or Camila Cabello, they may not know that the names are actually pronounced as ‘Shell’-berg and Camila Cabe-oh. It’s most likely to mispronounce this names at first but once the name-bearer has conveyed how his/her name is pronounced, we can’t really go and tell them, “You know what? You pronounce your name wrongly. (Although I don’t have any idea of the language from which your parents chose the name from) let me teach you the correct way to pronounce it.”
I receive many comments like-
“Go sing a song. You Bengalis are good are good singers”
(Not all Bengalis are good singers. Don’t stereotype. Just don’t.)
In the middle of any political discussion-
“You Bengalis think you’re rulling India”
(The tone is offensive. All the political leaders want to rule India, want to be in the highest power, how can that be specific to only Bengalis?)
“You Bengalis have the worst fake accent”
(I would admit that I can’t speak in Hindi very well, but I try my best to do justice to the language I am communicating in, please don’t mock my efforts if you can’t appreciate it. As far as English is concerned, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to imitate British/American accent. Rather I try to reduce my mother-tongue influence while speaking.)
While working with people from foreign countries, sometimes we don’t understand whether the name is of a woman or man. Sometimes we don’t understand the accent. I assume they also face the similar situation while working with us. Mutual respect is one of the major factor binding people coming from different cultures together.
End note: We need to be respectful and welcoming to the diversity while working in a multi-cultural team. It’s not expected of a matured person to make comments on race, languagr or something that might hurt someone’s sentiment.