Is my accent a crime?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 8 22:18:17 UTC 2010

This whole thing is merely a tempest in a teapot. As the history of
the United States shows, all that this country wants, when it passes
supposedly "discriminatory" laws that affect the lives of some random
visible minority, is only to help that minority raise itself to the
educational or other social standards of the controlling majority.

As has already been noted, the Arizona law provides for the further
education - assuming the availability of the appropriate level of
funding from the public sector and the continuation of such funding in
the face of possibly-negative political realities, of course - of
those teachers who are unable to meet what is, under the
circumstances, an entirely-reasonnable standard: native-speaker
control of the syntax and phonology of the English language - by those
who wish to teach the language to non-native speakers.

This does not entail that the English of the teacher herself be free
of any so-called "accent" in order to meet that standard. After all,
any sufficiently-motivated student can erase nearly all so-called
"non-standard" features from his speech at will, all by himself. The
very President himself - native-born, but of non-native stock - is a
shining example of this. His control of the syntax of English is
absolutely native. He has a few trivial problems with the phonology,
but these are easily overlooked.

My impression is that Arizona would find him fully-qualified to teach
ESL, lacking only a state teacher's credential. Of course,

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"––a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
–Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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