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Accent Monitoring: Innovation Or Rights Violation? 448

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-you-understand-the-words-that-are-coming-out-of-my-mouth? dept.
theodp writes "After almost a decade of sending monitors to classrooms across the state to check on teachers' articulation, the NY Times' Marc Lacey reports that a federal investigation of possible civil rights violations has prompted Arizona to call off its accent police. The teachers who were found to have strong accents were not fired, but their school districts were required to work with them to improve their speech. Interestingly, one person's civil rights violation is another's 'wonderful little phenomenon', which is how PBS described the accent neutralization classes attended by Bangalore call center workers who worked for the likes of IBM and Microsoft. On its website, IBM Daksh notes that 'To make sure that customers all over the world can understand the way our people speak, every new hire is trained in what we call voice and accent neutralization.' So, is accent monitoring and neutralization a civil right violation, as the U.S. Depts. of Justice and Education suggest, or is it an 'innovation', as IBM argues?"
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Accent Monitoring: Innovation Or Rights Violation?

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  • by backslashdot (95548) * on Sunday September 25, 2011 @07:55PM (#37510722)

    WTF .. is this real? Wait, how about the language itself .. As a Vulcan, why shouldn't I have the right to teach an English Literature class in Vulcan ? .. And why should I be forced to teach English Literature if I don't know it .. so how about I teach physics in my English literature class, in Vulcan?

    And to the DOE and DOJ, I ask how about coming up with ideas that make sense? My civil right to mental clarity and logic is being violated.

    • Context (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:05PM (#37510790) Homepage Journal

      Innovation or violation?

      Once again, context is everything.

      "clear" is an interesting judgement call. I am pretty sure that when used by the state in Arizona, this amounted to selective cultural bias and harassment. That would be constant with the other developments in that benighted corner of the US.

      I bet if you talk like Andy Devine or Beauford T. Pusser, no one in Arizona schools bats an eye at your "accent" or worries about the "clarity" of pronunciation.

      • Re:Context (Score:4, Interesting)

        by snowgirl (978879) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:45PM (#37510988) Journal

        Innovation or violation?

        It's interesting as well, because there is a difference in the application of the accent neutralization. The phone support providers are private employers, while the schools are public employers. As such public employers are restricted to certain conditions that private employers are not, because the public employers are both government and an employer.

        The Supreme Court has held that discrimination even by private employers based on not speaking English is only permissible when English skill is absolutely necessary to perform their job, because otherwise it is discrimination based on national origin (which is illegal).

        Therefore forced "accent neutralization" is clearly a discrimination based on national origin. So the immediate requirement is a necessity to show that it is absolutely necessary for job performance.

        Of course, Indian call centers aren't beholden to US law anyways, so even if it is a violation, it doesn't matter because in their country, it is not a violation. Of course, the Indian call center workers are also paid less than the US federal minimum wage, but it's not a "violation" because it's in another country. So, why can't it be both? Or context/country sensitive?

        • Whether you're a public or private provider, discrimination based on accent is either legal or it is not. But do you expect the Indian wage slaves to complain about language training if it gets them a job?

          Only in America would people think their rights are being violated when they're told to speak clearly in English when doing a job that requires communication. Oh, and Quebec, of course -- they'd have an issue with the "English" part of it. *LOL*

        • by swalve (1980968)
          Due to a hilarious "accent" difference, my kindergarten class learned how to say "wolf" properly: "woof".
          • Due to a hilarious "accent" difference, my kindergarten class learned how to say "wolf" properly: "woof".

            And you're still trying to understand the moral of the story of "The Little Boy Who Cried Woof"...

        • by WorBlux (1751716)
          The is very little that is more frustrating as a student as being unable to understand your teachers. Speaking in clear English is very important in order to teach well, especially if you have students who may have an differing accent at home. Someones whose native language is Chinese has enough trouble with unaccented (a.k.a. Midwestern) English speaker, much less someone with a thick Russian accent. Nobody was fired on this basis, but rather received additional training in order to improve their classroom
      • Re:Context (Score:5, Insightful)

        by erroneus (253617) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @09:40PM (#37511260) Homepage

        Actually, some levels of clear are not judgement calls. Some "accents" are simply lazy nonsense. As a man once married to a filipina, I can attest that a huge portion is just mental laziness. If a person can hear when their accent is being mimicked, then they know when they are saying it wrong. The mix of F and P sounds is simply ridiculous as the sounds are not even remotely the same. Worse, when she heard a word for the first time, she would mentally spell it in her mind and then pronounce it "her way" despite that the first time encountering a word was audible rather than written.

        Some accents are beyond understandable and tries the patience of all who try to listen.

        And as someone who has a great deal of experience learning and dealing with the Japanese and Mandarin languages, I can say without any reservation that different people hear things in different ways. US English speakers hear consonant sounds primarily while Japanese hear vowel sounds primarily. And, of course, Mandarin speakers hear pitch primarily, so that's a whole other thing.

        While taking a Japanese language class, one of my classmates was British. He insisted on speaking his form of Japanese with his British accent. And so I had to ask him, "what good is it to learn to speak a language when the people won't understand you because you keep changing the sounds of the vowels?" This, of course, brings me to my main point in all of this.

        If the people you speak to cannot understand you, then your accent is most assuredly a self-imposed handicap. If you can't do it right, you might as well not do it at all, in my opinion. Personally, I am rather good at understanding even the strongest of accents but I am very sympathetic to those who aren't as good at listening as I know very well what it means to a straining mind to lose a transfer of information because the data stream is difficult to decode rapidly enough.

        And when we are talking about school teachers with accents, we are talking about young minds which are already straining to learn their new material, now we have to strain their minds further by making it more difficult for them to understand what is being taught? Which is worse? To ensure the best potential for student education or to coddle self-imposed linguistic handicaps of a smaller group of people? We need to look to the future and not hold education back any more than necessary. And if IMPROVING a NECESSARY SKILL is a rights violation, then we might as well stop teaching English in public schools, forget about spelling and grammar or anything where linguistic skills count.

        If teachers can't speak, how will students?

        • Re:Context (Score:4, Informative)

          by hedwards (940851) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @10:10PM (#37511452)

          It's one thing to be able to reproduce the correct sound when one is laser focused on replicating the sound and quite another to be able to create the sounds properly whilst handling the other aspects of effective communication.

          Some individuals will have an accent as a result of not being able to hear or reproduce the sounds necessary to have a native like accent. But more commonly people will only be able to create the correct sound with great effort and will have to make other trade offs for it to happen.

          There is a minority of people out there that have an especially good ear for accents and more control over the muscles necessary to create the sounds, but they are very much in the minority and most folks just can't maintain it for long periods of time.

          I don't think it's been established completely the reason why some people can and others can't, one of the suggestions I've seen is that it's related to mirror neurons and empathy, but I don't believe that's at a point where we can say conclusively that is the case. But, whatever the means, the reality is that it's highly unlikely to involve the same pathway that one uses for other aspects of verbal communication.

        • Re:Context (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Jessified (1150003) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @11:25PM (#37511802)
          It is pretty ignorant to assume that because you can distinguish phonemes in your language, that others should have no problem and that they are lazy if they do. I bet you couldn't tell the difference between the four D's of Punjabi, even though a native speaker would think you are foolish for not hearing it. F and P are easy to you, and all those D's are just as easy to the Punjabi speaker. Any linguist worth their salt would tell you the same thing. And do you really want your children schooled in such a way that they only ever encounter perfect English (by your definition that is, as there is no such thing as one correct dialect in any language)? Cause that would really prepare them for the world we live in, right?
          • Very good point (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Quila (201335) on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:31AM (#37515364)

            Then I suggest not immigrating to a country where you are incapable of speaking the language understandably.

            But that's not the case here. Native Spanish speakers can learn English without advanced training if they want to. I'm betting her problem is more about wanting to push her Hispanic identity over American (very common). These people want the host country to bend for them, and I find that insulting to the host country. They have a duty to assimilate.

            I knew a Hispanic girl, fom Spain, working among Americans. It took me a while to catch the barest hint of an accent. She learned English in regular school and while living with Americans. Same with Germans in the US, some pretty thick, some it takes a minute to catch it, some have no German accent at all.

        • by Sique (173459)

          As a man once married to a filipina, I can attest that a huge portion is just mental laziness. If a person can hear when their accent is being mimicked, then they know when they are saying it wrong. The mix of F and P sounds is simply ridiculous as the sounds are not even remotely the same. Worse, when she heard a word for the first time, she would mentally spell it in her mind and then pronounce it "her way" despite that the first time encountering a word was audible rather than written.

          Let me correct your bias here. It actually depends on your language which phonemes sound the same and which do not. So it might be that in modern English, F and P sound different. But that's solely correct for modern English. In the Middle Ages, F and P were interchangable, and you often see words morphing from a p sound to an f sound and vice versa during the development of language. As an example, the english word "plant" comes from the same root (pun halfly intended) than the german word "pflanze", where

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I am pretty sure that when used by the state in Arizona, this amounted to selective cultural bias and harassment.

        So, in short, what you're doing here is assigning beliefs to a group of people based simply on where they live. I think there's a word for that, but I just can't put my figure on it.

      • by cHiphead (17854)

        Hell, IBM only does it to trick people into thinking your not calling India and supporting the outsourcing of jobs...

    • I am pretty sure you should have used "clearly" in that post title. Which might be just a teensy bit ironic. Not sure.

      • I am pretty sure you should have used "clearly" in that post title. Which might be just a teensy bit ironic. Not sure.

        That's okay, Avril - we already knew you didn't write your own songs.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        I don't know about you, but I hate it when I can't see the blackboard because the teacher's speaking.

    • It is biologically impossible for you to be a Vulcan, as they do not exist, so your argument is invalid.

      And demonstrably stupid.

      QED.

  • by Dthief (1700318) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:01PM (#37510756)
    in india its innovation

    in the US its a civil rights issue

  • by Tatarize (682683) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:01PM (#37510760) Homepage

    If a corporation hires you to stand on the street swinging a sign in a tutu, they are allowed. Nothing about asking people to speak in a way that maximizes profits is a violation of civil rights. However government action requiring people speak in a specific way because they want people to talk that way is a potential problem.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      That's bullshit and trying to engage in that in the US would definitely end with an eventual discrimination law suit. An accent is a part of a person and ultimately, corporations that pressure employees to drop their accent run the risk of being sued.

      Now, in cases where it's a very thick accent that is demonstrably getting in the way of conducting business, as the employer you might be able to get away with it, but even then it's risky business.

      OTOH, when call centers do that in India or other countries, US

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        Nonsense. While anyone can bring a lawsuit about anything, chances of winning one on grounds of 'discrimination' for something like this are pretty slim. Discrimination suits where the discrimination is against something you can't (or can't be expected to) change are valid. That is things like race, color, sex, religion,age, etc. Saying you are discriminated against because of your accent is like a would-be teacher complaining that they are discriminated against because they have no teaching certificate

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:07PM (#37510802) Homepage Journal
    No. If you are paid to talk to people on the phone, you need to be clear. People whose accents are too heavy - even if they know their stuff - can be incoherent to callers. The employer isn't forcing them to talk that way outside of work, or necessarily even when not on the phone.

    In other words, their neutralized accent is a job tool. It is no more a rights violation than being expected to know how to use MS Word.
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      My worst run-in with an accent was my matrix algebra class, where the teacher quite clearly knew what she was talking about, but you couldn't hear and comprehend a word of it because of her thick Asian accent. Regrettably, I have since determined that there's a whole lot of awesome stuff that you can do with matrix algebra (e.g. approximate nonnegative matrix factorization) and I wish that I'd been able to absorb more of that material. :(

      So yeah, there's definitely a spot where a heavy accent becomes dam

      • I had a math teach who couldn't pronounce the word "X" after he had a stroke. We all hated him because he was so boring to listen to -- he had lost a lot of his speech. Reflecting back, we all acted like spoilt arrogant asses. The guy was doing his best, and we certainly didn't try. Apparently he was a math genius, and we weren't interested in math.

        At some stage, children have to learn to drop their sense of entitlement in order to become adults.
        • by MacTO (1161105)

          While such sentiments lack empathy, a classroom teacher's job is to communicate. If they're unable to do so because of an accent or a speech impediment then they are unable to perform their responsibilities. If they believe that they should keep their job in spite of that, then they are the ones who have a sense of entitlement.

          That is not to say that they should not teach. There are other ways that they can pursue that passion. They may undergo speech therapy if it is effective for their condition. If

    • My Calculus II instructor was from China. I never could tell if he could speak English or not because his accent was so incredibly thick that it wouldn't have mattered. His students contacted the math department on multiple occasions and, instead of addressing the problem, we were told that we were inconsiderate and intolerant.

      No, sorry, we were not being intolerant. We simply couldn't understand anything he said.

      Needless to say we all fared quite poorly in his classes.

      Just one more reason not to send your

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:55PM (#37511034)

      We have this problem at my university. Particularly with grad students, we get some with very, very heavy accents and garbled English. Ok well maybe you could try and argue this would all be fine if all the foreign students were from the same place. To them, the accent would be "normal" and you could say the native English speakers need to suck it up and deal, since when you natively speak the language dealing with accents is easier.

      Things is, that's not the case. We have students from China, India, Europe, the Middle East, and so on. All of course have different accents, different problems with the language. So how fair is it to the undergrad from Kuwait to ask him to not just learn a second language, but then be able to deal with a Chinese grad student who is badly mispronouncing it, and then an Indian grad student doing the same, but in a different way?

      Then think about the same situation for primary education, when language skills are less developed. How fair would it be to a third grader who immigrated from Mexico, who's still working on language in general never mind English, to be taught by someone who has a heavy Chinese accent and speech errors? How well do you think that child will learn?

    • by drolli (522659)

      Yes. Exactly. I would be thankful if my employer helps me to settle a problem which is possible to fix but can make a big difference for my performance.

      If my Job is to speak, then so it is. There are a lot of things which i am not good in and i dont complain not being hired for them, and if they are part of my Job i am willing to work on my problems.

  • I think a key here is that the employees are being singled out. if every teacher had to attend an accent-nomalization class, there is no discrimination.

    In fact, the summary even states that this is exactly what IBM did.

  • It depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ironjaw33 (1645357) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:09PM (#37510814)

    If nobody can understand what a teacher is saying, then how much benefit do the students get from that teacher? Those students may be better off staying home and reading a book. Plenty of college professors fall into this category, but most of them aren't hired based on their teaching ability. For those whose job descriptions include communication, a thick unintelligible accent can be a serious hindrance.

    That said, if someone has a trace of an accent but he or she is completely understandable, then there shouldn't be a problem. Some of the examples given in TFA I would consider ridiculous. But, if parents are complaining that their children can't understand their teachers, a remedial course to mitigate a thick accent might be beneficial.

    • I had a professor that taught M68k assembly to first year computer engineering students... when class started, he had just gotten back from spending the summer term back in India and his accent was so thick, nobody in the class could really understand him. On top of that, he struggled for words to help students relate to basic processor fundamentals, not being able to think of the terms like "post office box" when talking about registers. Despite the supposed pre-reqs to even get accepted maybe 2 of us in t
  • When your accent is a speech impediment, you have a problem.

    • by macraig (621737)

      Qualification: when your accent is a speech impediment for people not from your neck of the woods, then you have a problem.

      I certainly wouldn't speak for any of my former classmates, but when I was in school and learning to write and speak English, ACCURACY was my goal, and I had a high expectation. The result is that anyone who reads or understands English will be able to fundamentally understand (if not comprehend) me. I paid a heavy price for it: slow cursive and block-letter handwriting speeds and the

  • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:11PM (#37510826) Journal
    "So, is accent monitoring and neutralization a civil right violation, as the U.S. Depts. of Justice and Education suggest, or is it an 'innovation', as IBM argues?"

    Provided the individual is easily understood an accent is utterly irrelevant save for some language classes. One of the best teachers I ever had was Mr. Tsang, my AP English teacher. Nearly 20 years later I still remember examining Shakespeare and Kafka in that class. If you had older siblings or friends who had taken his class he was always recommended. He also had a heavy Chinese accent; when he was in his teens he and his family fled from the Cultural Revolution in the PRC.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:12PM (#37510834) Journal

    I'm a resident alien in the U.S. I do speak English with an accent, though mine is much milder than that of most of my compatriots. Regardless, if I were aspiring to teach children of native English speakers in a school in a country where English is the majority and de-facto standard language, I would expect to be required to conform to certain norms regarding pronunciation. This is especially true in junior school, where children are still learning to speak right and rapidly acquiring vocabulary, and being exposed to a strong accent may undesirably affect their speech patterns.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @09:03PM (#37511090)

      Is even more serious. I work at a university with lots of foreign students so I get a lot of exposure to accents of all types. However for a good number of our foreign grad students, it goes beyond just an accent, it is straight out poor English skills. The easy way to tell is if the "accent" continues in e-mail, the written word. You, for example, do not. Your written word gives away no hint that you have anything but a mastery of the language. Someone would need to hear you speak to determine that you weren't a native speaker.

      However we have plenty of students that is not the case for. They send in an e-mail for support that, well, has an accent. The language is misused and done so in a particular way that you can hear it in your head in the accent. Verbs are incorrectly conjugated, word order is mixed up, terms are used improperly and so on.

      That isn't just an "accent" that means their English skills are poor. However you'll see people try to pass it off as such. "Oh they just don't like my accent." No, that isn't the real problem, the problem is you are improperly using the language. You are trying to lean on the fact that you are not a native speaker as an excuse for not improving your skills.

    • My 3 year old daughter goes to daycare where her current teachers are both non-native speakers (one from China, one from a slavic country) and the both have an accent. It is not harming her speech at all, she learns new words just fine. Sometimes she learns them improperly but they get corrected in short order. The key is that children hear language from many different sources and incorporate all of it, not just the one or two teachers with an accent. So I think this whole accent thing is quite overblown.

      • by thejynxed (831517)

        I saw on PBS, where they are testing language immersion courses starting at pre-kindergarten and going the entire way through 12th grade. They were dual-learning English and Mandarin Chinese. It was amazing to see 2nd and 3rd graders speaking fluently in both languages, even if it was only "basic" things.

        They were even learning Math and Science courses in both languages.

        To me, this is what Americans should be doing. As much as we all seem to be reliant on English as our primary language, this won't be the c

  • Just accents? How about handwriting.

    I remember my first day in Calculus 2 in University. Half-a-dozen of us were in class, waiting on the professor and discussing what was taught in the class in the prior hour.

    All four walls had blackboards that were covered in a scrawl. Our best guess was Hebrew or another Semitic language.

    Then the professor walks in and asks "have you copied down everything from the boards, yet?" We were dumbfounded. His handwriting made the average doctor look like a penmanship winner.

    Th

  • college (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657)

    As a reality check, maybe we should compare with what happens at the college level. At US research universities, you get profs and TAs who are there because of their research. Many of them have strong accents. With grad students, it's common to assign the ones with really unintelligible accents to grade papers rather than to TA discussion sections or labs. When it comes to profs, I'm sure you can find people who will recount horror stories of unintelligible lecturers, but in reality I think that's very unco

    • Not just college; jobs nowadays often require working with people who have accents as well. I grew up in Idaho and never had to deal with accents. (Actually quite a few Hispanic farm workers lived in the area, but they might as well have been on another planet; I never got to know even one of them). Now I can't understand accents at all. It can be embarrassing, giving a seminar and not understanding a question, or not understanding a stewardess on an international flight. Oh look, a hick!

      Yes, I can

    • by daknapp (156051)

      Of course the answer is that this isn't really about the quality of teaching, it's about xenophobia.

      Your mind-reading ability is astonishing! Somehow you are able to get into the minds of the people involved and you know their motivation! Have you ever considered running for office?

      Actually, there is a very good psychological term for what you are doing here. It's called projection. Since you would do this from some xenophobic motivation, you assume that everyone else must, as well, since it's impossibl

    • "So if it's good enough for Berkeley or Harvard, why is it not good enough for an elementary school in Phoenix?"

      Well, perhaps because those students do not have fully developed language skills, and many of them may be of more modest intelligence. That someone who has completely primary education, and tested highly can understand something doesn't mean a child who is still being taught can do so nearly as well. Someone going to Harvard has completed most of the English education, their principal mental devel

    • by westlake (615356)

      So if it's good enough for Berkeley or Harvard, why is it not good enough for an elementary school in Phoenix?

      Because the university student is eighteen to twenty years old and the third grade student nine?

      The call center workers' job consists of nothing but talking to people on the phone, all day. Of course it's a bigger deal for them to have neutral accents.

      What do you think the grade school teacher is doing all day?

    • So if it's good enough for Berkeley or Harvard, why is it not good enough for an elementary school in Phoenix?

      Of course the answer is that this isn't really about the quality of teaching, it's about xenophobia.

      It's not "good enough" when college students can't understand their instructors. It's a serious problem and a slap in the face to students. It's bad enough when the student is an adult and paying for instruction. At least college students can (ostensibly) stand up for themselves and demand better. Allowing small children to be subjected to teachers they can't understand is a travesty. The public school teachers of this country seem to think that the education system exists primarily to provide them w

  • by buback (144189) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:33PM (#37510940)

    I applaud the efforts of the Arizona officials. A smooth English accent makes the speaker sound smarter and more attractive. I hope my children can learn to speak with English accents instead of the muddled Mid-Atlantic American that is so common in these parts.

    • The United States is made mostly of non-indigenous people. Some came from the British Isles, most of them from somewhere else.

      They speak with an accent. To grade that accent is to discriminate, literally, based on their national origin. I agree that people need to be understood. I disagree that they need to be flawless. To demand the degree of "accent-free" diction is to exercise both xenophobic tendencies, and also to discriminate. Both are wrong; both have become typical of caucasian attitude, as manifest

      • There is no such thing as "accent-free". We all speak with an accent, the accent of the place where we learned our language. You may think your way of speaking is "normal" and everyone else's as "different", but you are not the center of the linguistic universe; it is all relative. People from other places can hear your accent and can probably tell where you grew up by listening to you.

        I suspect that discrimination on the basis of accent would probably violate the civil rights of U.S. citizens to travel

      • by Dhalka226 (559740)

        Not all discrimination is wrong, much less detrimental. To prefer certains accents is not only acceptable but perfectly natural. Which accents those are will vary by person and culture, but trying to wipe out the preference not only won't happen, it is an attempt to strip something that makes us human.

        Where it becomes an issue is when programs like this get into play and we try to force an accent. That much we definitely agree on.

    • by westlake (615356)

      A smooth English accent makes the speaker sound smarter and more attractive.

      There is no such thing as a "Received Pronunciation" in American English.

      But it is true that radio, the movies, televison helped to define a kind of national voice intelligible across all regional, racial, ethnic and class divisions.

      It is also true that the drive towards standardization often comes from below. From the immigrant or minority population itself. Because it translates into better jobs and upward mobility.

  • business needs to do with the overseas help desk and other customer service.

  • Freshman physics discussion group, led by a postdoc from India. First day, he kept talking about "el squaw". The whole hour was about this Hispanic Indian maiden and her relationship to other constants. Went home and read the chapter. The young woman turned out to be L squared.
    • The squaw of the hippopotamus hide is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.

      (*rimshot*)

  • NOT Racism (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kr1ll1n (579971) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @08:44PM (#37510982)

    To those saying this is racism, please grow up and quit whining.

    I grew up in South Carolina, and have lived there most of my adult life. To this day other natives ask me where I came from, because I do not sound as they do.
    I just smile, and say, "born and raised, but went to a private school that enforced clear and concise speech." To those that instead ask, "Where did you attend college?" I have to say, "I didn't. I dropped out of high school my sophomore year and had obtained my G.E.D before the year was over."

    Teaching English to students while maintaining such a thick accent does nothing more than harm the children later on in life. People are viewed by how well they communicate, especially in a business environment. To expect a teacher to instruct children in English and not be able to speak clearly and concisely themselves, is nothing more than asking the blind to lead the blind.

    If I had two people interviewing for a job I had, both with identical qualifications, and one spoke better than the other, guess who I am going to give the job to?

  • It's all relative (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Someone from South Carolina thinks they speak normally and that the person from the Bronx has a funny accent; the person from the Bronx thinks the reverse; and a person from London thinks they're both nuts, innit? Mid-west American and "BBC English" are supposed to be widely understood by American and UK English speakers, but they are still accents.

    The example given in the article is ludicrous: 'the state had written up teachers for pronouncing "the" as "da," "another" as "anuder" and "lives here" as "leev

  • Its about bloody time you blokes learned to speak the Queen's English!
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Wow, some country has an inferiority complex.

    • by ktappe (747125)
      Actually, Americans do speak Queen's English. Americans speak English as it was spoken in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is Brits whose accents have changed in the last 200 years. (yes, I'm serious.)
  • In uni I had lecturers from China, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia among other places. I could understand them. The two hardest to understand were one lady who was extremely soft spoken. Had to sit in the front to hear her, even with a mic. The absolute hardest was a scottish guy. I had no idea what he was saying, even with a presentation up that he was speaking to. And english was his native language! All the foreign nationals put more effort into learning a second language than he did his first.

    • Yup. The hardest time I ever had understanding anyone allegedly fluent in English was a Scottish fellow with such a thick accent that I basically had to piece together what he was saying with about a 50% word comprehension rate. I've had thickly accented Indians who spoke more comprehensible English.

  • Call centers in India have good reason to Americanize (not "neutralize") the accents of the workers there. But the Arizona case reminds me of my grandfather, who was born and raised in a certain rural area of Canada, and got a job teaching in the same area. So if ever there was a local accent, it was my grandfather's. But some fool administrator with a Scottish brogue so thick nobody could understand him sat in on one of my grandfather's classes and marked him for his "foreign" accent, which in his ignoranc
  • by idbeholda (2405958) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @10:39PM (#37511582) Journal
    An accent that is detrimental to learning a specific language should not be allowed. Also, back in my day, we called that problem a speech *impediment*, because it IMPEDES proper and basic communication.

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