National Center for Cultural Competence
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Cultural Awareness

Teaching Tools, Strategies, and Resources, continued

The Name Game

Training Objectives:

• To understand how cultures are reflected in names and naming practices.
• To increase cultural awareness of self and others.


Paper and pencils are helpful but not essential. Chart padding is also helpful during report-out.


Have participants divide into groups of three or four and share with each other information about their names and naming practices in their families by discussing these issues:

  1. How they were named and the history behind their first and last names. For example: Were they named after someone? Is this a common practice in their families? Is their first name reflective of a particular ethnic or linguistic heritage? Is their first name spelled or pronounced differently in various cultural groups?
  2. Does their last name reflect a particular ethnic or linguistic heritage? Was their family surname changed in any way upon coming to the U.S.? Does anyone have a name that is frequently mispronounced? If so, how does this make them feel?
  3. What names have they given their children? Did they have special reasons for naming their children what they did? Do their children’s names reflect any ethnic or linguistic heritage? Did they deliberately anglicize their children’s names
  4. Did discussing their names and naming practices reveal anything about their cultural heritage? If so, what aspects of culture were reflected in names and naming?

Have one person from each group report to the whole group about cultural learnings gleaned from this discussion of names.

Notes to Facilitator:

Cultural practices affect us from the very moment we enter life. In some cultures, great significance is placed on the name given to a newborn, while in other cultures, value is placed on the uniqueness or popularity of the name. One practice is no better than the other; they are simply different.


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