Unclear on American Campus: What the Foreign Teacher Said
rkephart at unf.edu
Sat Jun 25 01:55:44 UTC 2005
At 4:36 PM -0400 6/24/05, Harold F. Schiffman wrote:
>...I think we need to develop tests that focus on both objective
>issues (e.g. released final consonants) and subjective ones (racism,
>xenophobia, whatever) and see what might come from this.
Hal, this turns the topic around a bit, but your excellent post
reminded me of an incident here a few years back. I gave a talk in an
anthropology class at the local community college. I talked about
language, linguistic variation, and so on. One student in the class
was a young man from West Africa- I forget the country.
A few weeks afterwards, I ran into this student on my own campus. He
ran up saying he was so happy to find me. I asked why. He said he
hoped I could recommend a good speech therapist for him. I asked why
he thought he needed a speech therapist. He replied that his English
teacher at the community college told him he needed to see one,
because she had a hard time understanding him! I told him that I
didn't think he needed speech therapy, because he was perfectly
understandable to me; his worried look evaporated.
Of course I know some may disagree, arguing that people who have
strongly marked accents might benefit from speech therapy, but I in
principle I am opposed unless there's a real pathology involved.
The one factor I can think of uniting my example with the thread
topic is the power differential: American students with a foreign
teacher; American teacher with foreign student. I wonder if this
differential doesn't predispose the participants toward some kind of
lopsided mutual intelligibility.
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