Unclear on American Campus: What the Foreign Teacher Said

Anthea Fraser Gupta A.F.Gupta at leeds.ac.uk
Tue Jun 28 14:36:55 UTC 2005

Below is an extract from my 1994 book, THE STEP-TONGUE (p197) in which
we (this chapter was written by myself and Helen Chandler Yeo)
summarised estimates of incidence of speech-language disorders in the


We began by attempting to compare the rate of referral for speech and
language therapy in Singapore with the rate in UK, where speech and
language therapy is longer established and has a less medical
orientation. It is not really possible to examine the difference between
incidence and treatment, in order to show the extent of any
under-referral. Estimates of incidence of speech and language
difficulties vary considerably depending on the nature of the sample and
the type of assessment used (Webster 1988).

Enderby and Philipp (1986:154) estimate that in the UK in 1975 school
age children had speech and language disorders at a rate of .4% of the
child population, apparently excluding children who stammered and those
with known causative factors. Estimates of language disorder alone range
from 0.1% to 1%, and of language delay vary widely too, from 1% to 5% of
five year olds, for instance (French 1990:3). Taking the lower figures,
we could expect a minimum of about 3000 3-9 year olds with language
delay in Singapore, and 300 with language disorder. If, as Enderby and
Davies (1989) estimate, serious communication disorders affect 5% of
school age children, we would expect around 15,000 Singaporean children
aged 5-9 to be in need of speech and language therapy. As we shall see,
the actual numbers being seen by therapists do not approach these


Most children who need speech-language therapy have clear causes of
speech-language problems (including deafness, intellectual impairment,
and repaired cleft palate). But there is a small number of children, as
indicated above, who have specific speech-language disorder with no
known "neurological or anatomical pathology" -- it would be wrong to
assume that they are being treated for having the wrong accent. There is
such a thing as specific language disorder, and some children also
benefit from therapy for language delay (it can prevent a lot of social
problems at school). Recently it has been suggested that some specific
speech-language disorders may be linked to particual genetic patterns as
in the 'KE family': see

 There might be a cultural difference between the UK and US in that
speech therapists are very anxious to accomodate accent differences (and
this is essential in the UK which has a wide range of accent variation),
so that the problem is missing children who do need help, rather than
trying to help children who don't need it. There is a lively, but
separate, tradition of elocution and speech and drama, where people go
to change their accents, and non-native speakers would turn to a
language teacher rather than either a speech therapist or an

The largest provider of speech therapy in the UK is the state (through
hospital and school services), but elocution is available only

Tell me, do US universities still fail people with Brooklyn accents on
language tests?????!!!!!!!  We don't have anything like that here at
all, and didn't have even in my youth (graduated 1972). I am mind


*     *     *     *     *
Anthea Fraser Gupta (Dr)
School of English, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT
NB: Reply to a.f.gupta at leeds.ac.uk
*     *     *     *     *

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list