The Frequency and Importance of Accurate Heritage Name Pronunciation for Post-Secondary International Students in Canada




adaptation, intercultural relations, international students, name mispronunciation


International students’ names are often mispronounced, and this experience can have psychological and relational implications for some students’ cross-cultural adjustment. Little research, however, has examined why students are or are not bothered by mispronunciations. This study examined the impact of heritage name mispronunciation on 173 language-minority international students in Canada. The results indicated that although heritage name mispronunciations occurred frequently, only about half of the sample perceived correct pronunciation as important. Those who felt accurate pronunciation was important stressed that their name had a strong connection to their heritage and that mispronunciations were disrespectful of that significance. Those who felt accurate pronunciation was not important cited little personal connection to the name and accepted mispronunciations for reasons of efficiency. The findings suggest that accurate heritage name pronunciation can facilitate the adjustment of international students by fostering positive affect, communicative comfort, and relational closeness during cross-cultural interactions in the host countries.

Author Biographies

Ying Shan Doris Zhang, University of Alberta, Canada

YING SHAN DORIS ZHANG, MA, is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Psychology at University of Alberta. Her major research interests lie in the area of acculturation, intercultural communication and relations, as well as the cross-cultural adjustment of international students and immigrants.

Kimberly Noels, University of Alberta, Canada

KIMBERLY A. NOELS, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at University of Alberta. Her major research interests lie in the area of language, intercultural communication, interethnic relations, and acculturation.


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How to Cite

Zhang, Y. S. D., & Noels, K. (2021). The Frequency and Importance of Accurate Heritage Name Pronunciation for Post-Secondary International Students in Canada. Journal of International Students, 11(3), 608–627.



Research Articles