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No one could pronounce my name.
Photo: T. Peters
No one could pronounce my name correctly. I knew I needed an English name, so I wrote to my father and asked him to give me an English name.

They Couldn't Pronounce My Name

Shen Yu from China

My name is Shen Yu. My English name is Shelly. I have a lot of things to say about my name. Yu is my last name. It doesn't have a special meaning, but if you pronounce it in Chinese, it sounds like "fish" in English.

My first name is Shen. In Chinese, it has two meanings. One is a city in China—Shanghai. I was born in Shanghai, and my parents hoped I would love the city. The other meaning is "monkey". In China, we use twelve animals to indicate different ages. Mine is the monkey.

In China, most last names don't have meanings. First names and middle names have different meanings, but I don't have a middle name.

After I came to America, my name often caused me to feel embarrassed because Americans can not say my name correctly.

Sometimes they call me, and I don't know who they are calling. In my first English class, an American teacher wanted me to answer a question. She called on me three times, but I didn't know she was calling on me. Then the teacher wrote my name on the board and asked, "Who is Shen Yu? Stand up." I saw my name on the board, and I stood up immediately. I felt everyone was laughing at me.

The teacher asked me my English name and how to remember my Chinese name. I had to tell her that my name means "monkey and fish." After that, when my teacher wanted me to answer questions, she called me "Monkey and Fish." All of my classmates always laughed.

At that time, I had been in America only one month. My English was very poor. and I often couldn't understand what the teacher said. When the teacher called on me, I was very nervous, and I often didn't know how to answer the question.

When my classmates laughed at me, I couldn't say anything. I often kept silent a long time and said nothing. These things happened not only in my English class; they happened everywhere in my life: when I ordered some furniture, when I met other Americans. I knew I needed an English name, so I wrote to my father and asked him to give me an English name.

I had another English teacher, and he couldn't pronounce my name correctly either. He gave me an English name—Shelly, so my name became Shelly.

A month later, my father gave me another English name—Sunlight. He said "I hope you will be like bright, warm sunlight. You are happy and honest, you get trust easily. You must do your best to help others and give them warmth and hope, like sunlight."

When I told my teachers and friends my name was Sunlight, they said it was very difficult to call me that because it wasn't like an American name. I think a name is a mark; it isn't very important. I will keep the name Shelly, but I must live like my father's hope.

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