Language Police flunk teachers from Estonia to Arizona

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Jun 9 00:01:59 UTC 2010

I believe there was an incident, and case, in
Massachusetts recently where a teacher in some
town's public school system did not speak English
well enough, according to some test, was
eventually discharged, appealed to the courts,
and won her case.  Specifics of place, date, etc.
escape me at the moment.  So it's not only Arizona.


At 6/8/2010 04:19 PM, Dennis Baron wrote:
>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:
>Dennis Baron
>Professor of English and Linguistics
>Department of English
>University of Illinois
>608 S. Wright St.
>Urbana, IL 61801
>office: 217-244-0568
>fax: 217-333-4321
>read the Web of Language:
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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