It seems that the latest English craze in Korea is adopting English names for working in international companies as well as the services sectors like restaurants.
What’s even more astounding is that there is even a Korean website, which helps people choose a proper English name.
Gee, I hope they are not charging people for that service. And I wonder what kind of criteria is used for coming up with a name?
Of course, this is nothing new if you are an English teacher. Using English names in the English classroom has generally been useful in making students feel more at ease with learning the language. It can get a little weird though with some of the names that students want to be called. There was once a female student in one of the first classes I taught in Korea who wanted to be called “Jelly” and another male student who wanted to be called “Q” (he was a big James Bond fan). And then there were the students who chose a name from whatever movie was popular at the time, so I could usually count on having a Rambo, Terminator, Arnold (Schwarzenegger), Bruce (Willis), Demi (Moore), Julia (Roberts) and Richard (Gere) in class.
When it’s come to using English names or nicknames though, I have always preferred using a student’s Korean name in the classroom. It just helps me remember them better instead of being another Tom, Dick, or Harry.
And sometimes knowing their Korean name instead of their nickname or English name can prevent a very embarrassing faux pas from happening. When I was teaching at ELS back in 1991 I had this salaryman who wanted to be called “Bulldog” in class. Fair enough, Bulldog it was. That was fine calling him his English nickname in class, but one day when I was at the KOEX in southern Seoul I saw “Bulldog” walking toward me with some of his co-workers and I could not remember his Korean name. I had to say something, so I said “Hey Bulldog!” Although he didn’t seem to mind, I felt a little awkward for not having remembered his name.
We’ll just have to see if this is another passing fad or if it is going to be around for awhile. There is already some fallout from this by some disgruntled netizens who view this as another example of Korea losing its identity. Maybe they can’t come up with a really cool nickname.