Language Police flunk teachers from Estonia to Arizona
debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU
Tue Jun 8 20:19:25 UTC 2010
There's a new post on the Web of Language: Language Police flunk
teachers from Estonia to Arizona
Government language inspectors are fanning out across Estonia to
ensure that the nation’s teachers are speaking good, error-free
Estonian. And the same thing is going on in Arizona, where state
officials are monitoring teachers to check for foreign accents and
grammatical mistakes. There are distinct parallels between the
language police in Estonia and Arizona, whose motto is to protect and
serve the language—Estonian in one case, English in the other—not
those who speak it.
In Estonia, instructors whose Estonian isn’t good enough to pass a
twenty-minute interview get warnings from the language police, and
those flunking a second time can be fined or even lose their jobs.
Arizona officials deny rumors that teachers in the state are being
removed from classrooms for speaking English poorly, though they
acknowledge that inspectors have identified several dozen teachers
with “pronunciation problems,” the educational euphemism for Spanish
accents, something they don’t permit in classes where the students are
still acquiring English.
The problem in Estonia is that many teachers speak only Russian, the
language of Estonia’s former Soviet masters. During the Soviet years,
Russian was not only the language of Estonia’s political bosses, it
was also the language of the nation’s cultural elite and the medium of
instruction in the nation’s top schools. But with the fall of the
Soviet Union in 1991, Russian began to be abandoned or forcibly erased
in Estonia as well as in other former Soviet satellites, to the
chagrin of the large numbers of Russian speakers left behind when the
Red Army retreated.
The problem in Arizona isn’t Russian, but Spanish. Spanish speakers
predate Anglos in Arizona, which was part of the territory ceded to
the United States in 1848 after the Mexican War. Despite its long
history as the language of government and culture in the American
Southwest, some English speakers now think of Spanish as language
poverty, illiteracy, and illegal immigration. Newt Gingrich caused a
furor a few years ago when he called Spanish the language of the
ghetto, while English was the language of getting ahead.
To learn about more parallels between Arizona and Estonia, read the
rest of this post on the Web of Language:
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801
read the Web of Language:
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
More information about the Ads-l