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The United States is considered by most people as the biggest melting pot of cultures on the globe. This brings a rich aspect of accents from the foreign-born workers and residents. Most of the population view this as a good sign of diversity, but the reality is that discrimination against accented workers is growing at an alarming rate especially at the work place. For example, even management consultants that have foreign accents still suffer from discrimination in the form of loss of business. In fact, some come right out and say it that the accent is not an asset to the business to the person in question regardless of their qualifications and proficiency in the field.
Workplace/ School Situation
At present, employers have the legal backing to move an employee to a different position on the premise that they can prove their accent is a material factor to the job. Firms should not be taking this awful direction in this day and era. However, the saddest part is that it is not a new trend. Rather an ever-present evil that has refused to leave the western culture much like the dying traces of racism in the south. For example, a Spanish immigrant often remembers the persecutions he received for speaking Spanish at recess in school (Anzald’ua 2947).
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English, or American as the teacher and his mother often called it, was the only language he was supposed to learn. Therefore, some of the immigrants joined the hate parade created by the natives on their own offspring. It is the epitome of discrimination when one’s own family refuses to recognize their origins as if they are trying to erase their every foreign essence they had in a bid to fit into the society.
They fail to recognize their foreign aspect is their strongest point in the community in that it brings the rich presence of diversity and uniqueness. The experiences of many of the minority group children in the education system of the United States reveal a lot of neglect in recent history (Giles and Clair 25). The social and historical context provides the context, which gives the rationale for development of language, and attitudes and impoverished self-concepts, continue to receive documentation in the literature.
To understand the current state of affairs, one should turn their attention towards history. Here, they should probe the myth of the American national character. The use of this approach to contemporary problems in language education can explain the structure behind the language policies that govern the land. It would also explain the direction of social change as documented in public policy. It is also said to be one of the best insights to the origins of language education. Another theory follows Social Darwinians that suggests that the strongest society survived (Giles and Clair 26).
Historical and Sociological Defence
American society evolved from a mixture of pilgrims and missionaries as well as European expeditionary. The British contingent was the largest percentage and, therefore, the strongest group. They developed their own society with the help of other minorities. English was their official language and their influence to the cultural basis was essential to the structuring of the nation. Other groupings followed the instruction of general American society that was pro-English and western in nature (Giles and Clair 26). Hence, the drive to assimilate as much as they possibly can into the society and avoid discrimination, which let many groups lose the purity of their distinct languages almost entirely.
What never comes to mind is that discrimination comes from both perspectives of a community border. To the born American a foreigner speaking crisp English with a clear or American/ British accent is a thing of wonder that others should emulate. On the other hand, they are considered traitors in some circles of their home ethnicity. For example, Mexican immigrants that spoke fluent English were often called Poncho’s cultural traitors (Anzald’ua 2948). According to the Mexican culture, these people indulge in speaking the oppressor’s language by speaking English, or speak the native language with an English accent.
Some have been criticised by patriotic Latinos and purists for speaking Chicano Spanish. This border tongue borrows from both languages, though cannot be grouped as either English or Spanish as a supplement. The purists label it as a brutal mutilation of the Spanish language that should never have been witnessed. On the other hand, Chicano Spanish is correct, or a mutation; rather it is a living language. These people were not Spanish or English and live in a country where English is the reigning tongue, but are not Anglo, have no choice other than to come up with their own language.
This is a language with which they can connect to their identity as their creation and which they do not have to share its rights to with anyone. Here, they have been awarded the abilities to communicate realities and values that are true to themselves. This language neither had terms of English nor Spanish, but a forked variation between the two. The situation between the two countries left the border communities with conditions suitable to formulate a hybrid language, which they could call their own (Anzald’ua 2948).
According to (Giles and Claire) the importance of identity when it comes to language is better expressed through diversity than conformity (72). Conformity kills creativity in terms of language combination and may end up producing an alternative means to communicate. One thing that people do not realize in these situations is that no one language can maintain purity forever. Languages evolve over time. In fact, English in the thirteenth century is quite different from the official British version to date. In an ideal setting, a language will crop up probably supplementing from a major version and build momentum.
The accents are part of the use of that language and are natural accessories that come along with the speech patterns used. They too may be a result of the evolution process that came along with that of the language formation. The other problem is that stereotypes are built with the different languages. For example, certain accents will create the impression of a person’s residence to a specific geography or an affiliation to a certain culture (Giles and Claire 89).
For example, the Spanish mix called Chicano may not have many perceivable differences to the outside observer when it comes to distinguishing the language from Spanish (Anzald’ua 2948). Either way, the speaker earns the label of Spanish foreigner. In many cases, and this is quite a bad habit, the observer is of the opinion that a foreigner may probably not know English when they hear them fluently speak a foreign language especially Spanish. This puts them in an embarrassing position when they come and find the foreigner was quite proficient in the English language.
Law Enforcement Discrimination
Foreigners especially that do not comprehend the official language have always been considered as a nuisance by law enforcement authorities. The trouble is not that a crime rate in such neighbourhoods has soured through the roof, but the problem lies in lack of clear communication and understanding. Rarely, does a police department get the right translator for a certain dialect at the position where they want him or her to operate. By employing the services of a translator, this means a multilingual police officer that understands the local languages. Thus, case investigation is very slow in these situations because interviewing witnesses to crimes is a hurdle in itself.
The other issue is that police harassment in these areas usually has to do with their citizenship. In addition, there is a crude concept that has been in practice for some time by law enforcement as an unofficial rule that those who do not understand English at a functional level are prime suspects for immigration irregularities. Therefore, such individuals end up being the likely targets for deportation back to their homeland for lack of proper travelling or residential identification simply because their accent was the basis of probing legality of their stay. What the police department may not realise is that their methodology does not have a large bearing on the amount they catch.
The truth is that there are many countries that have English as the official language in Africa as well as the Caribbean and South America. English language is global is one way or another because of the effects of the western world in terms of influencing the tastes and ideologies of the rest of the globe. Accents are the remaining piece of authenticity that tie one to their origin in some cases around the globe were English has been officially declared as an official language (Anzald’ua 2951).
There are advantages to universality. However, where one language and accent; thus, are the norm. At this point, it is discernable that there is an extricable link between a person’s language and their accent. For some, the accent is nonexistent showing a full adoption of the foreign element in their communication, while for some; the accent is an integral part of how they speak regardless of how long they have spoken a foreign language. This could be a source of negative ethnicity, for if the language and accent are tied, then all one had to do to offend another party would be talking badly about the individual’s language, which is synonymous to the accent. Ethnic identity is almost twin to linguistic identity (Anzald’ua 2951).
Though the person does not realize it at that point, he or she shares a bond with their language such that their self-confidence in some ways resonates from their communication, so it is the source of their pride. An insult to the accent may count as a direct insult to their inner beings and the offense may be taken as quite serious by the offended side. This may result in physical conflict thereafter.
The world we inhabit is quite diverse. There is a reason for this and why it is believed that variety is beauty. In this way, then beauty should receive appreciation instead of suspicion and investigation (Giles and Claire 76). Accents are part of the cultural traces that tell us where we have come from as individuals. As much as there are obvious benefits to unification, accent discrimination should never become the accepted mode of action. This is one-step away from ethnic identification and, thus, shares an indirect link with concepts such as racism.
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