Harmful effects and implications of accent discrimination Harmful effects on ESL learners As concluded by Munro (2003), accent discrimination has played a negative effect on many situations. Some of the most common cases include discrimination in hiring process, in employment, and even resulting in harassments. As a harmful result, second language users are facing negative forces that may cause them to question beyond the issue. One example is these learners start questioning their own characteristics.
Aspects such as skin color, dress, and other behaviors fall into the category, and soon, these second language users will show decrease in self-esteem, questioning if the issue is more than just accent. When this happens, most people with low confidence and unwilling to confront issues, will chose to avoid situation that requires oral communications, resulting the stage of avoiding contact with native speakers. The second stage starts when these low self-esteem learners seek companion.
And because their lack of effort in talking with their ESL teachers, it is more likely that they find people with similar situations. These second language learners, who have experienced accent discrimination, will form a self-protective group. Inside this group, they are free to communicate in their first language and regain self-confidence. Unfortunately, as a result, they begin losing interest in improving their English and focus their social lives within the group. This can be summarized as lose of motivation.
If no one interferes with this group of people, sooner or later, the group of people will start to feel isolated and disconnected with the native Canadians, leaving the accent discrimination issue unsolved, and even causing reversed effects, such as hostility and more discrimination towards the nation. This is the end of the cycle where people lose faith in believing Canada is an equal opportunity country that welcomes diversified culture. As we can see, the issue has turned from an accent level into a national prejudice level.
Implication Despite some people are experiencing the process described above, more and more people with accent issues are taking their steps to reduce the problem. To speak with a more accurate and understandable language, many learners are investing both their time and money so they might have a better future. Over the past few years, enrollment in classes that help reduce accent has increased significantly (Gorman, 2007). In some situations, poor second language speakers are being placed responsible for their oral English ability.
In the US, it is consider that graduate teaching assistants must achieve a certain level of proficiency in spoken English, as this is a developing policy by the Institutions of higher education (Thomas, 1993). For some institutions, teaching assistants with low oral English teaching skills are required to first successfully complete courses in English before they can serve as a teaching assistant. According to Statistic Canada, it is predicted that a steady increase in the number of immigrants to this country will occur throughout the decade. By 2006 there are over 1. 4 million Chinese in Canada (Stat. ca, 2006). The size is projected to double within 20 years. As Canada becomes a globalized country with increasingly multicultural exposure, the notion of an “accent” may change and increase in types. As a nation, only by becoming increasingly skilled in our ability to understand English spoken with various accents and be warm in attitudes toward all accents, can we live up to the reputation of welcoming diversity. Communication is a two-way process. Both the speaker and the listener have a responsibility for the act of communication.
While different or foreign accents can sometimes interfere with the listener’s ability to understand the message, accents can conjure up negative evaluations of the speaker, reducing the listener’s willingness to accept their responsibility in the communication process. Sometimes, it becomes easy to say, “I simply can’t understand you,” placing full responsibility for the communication process on the speaker. We all have standards and preferences about the spoken language; and certain accents can take more effort to understand.
It is to be hoped, though, that we can make an effort to hear the content of the message and look beyond the stereotypes associated with the way the message is being spoken. Friedman (2004) suggests several steps for ESL teachers when working with someone who is difficult to understand. First, don’t pretend to understand. Ask the person to slow down a bit because you are having difficulty understanding them. Second, don’t rush. Slow down yourself. Third, resist the temptation to shout. The speaker is not hard of hearing. Fourth, avoid being rude. Ask for help from others if you need it.
As a global citizen, we interact with newcomers to the communities, with businesspersons from around the globe, and with individuals and families who are at various stages in the process of developing Standard English speaking skills. I believe respect for diversity can be extended over language and speech. Modeling supportive behavior ourselves is an important step. Further, we can encourage others to confront the stereotypes and prejudices that are often associated with specific speech patterns. ————————————————- Bibliography Friedman, N. (2004).
How to handle foreign accent. Networking Today. Retrieved Nov 3, 2012, from: http://www. networkingtoday. ca/articles/foreignaccent. htm Gorman, A. (2007). Accenting the ‘American’ in their speech. Los Angeles Times, Retrieved Nov 3, 2012, from: http://mobile. latimes. com/detail. jsp? key=57283&rc=null&p=1 Munro, M. (2003). A primer on accent discrimination in the Canadian context. TESL Canada Journal, v20, n2, p38-51 Thomas, C. F. , & Monoson, P. K. (1993). Oral English language proficiency of ITA’s: Policy, implementation, and contributing factors. Innovative Higher Education, 17 (3), 195-209.
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