Tuesday, July 17

Submission: Accent reduction programs would validate discrimination

In response to the article suggesting that UCLA should offer accent reduction programs to combat accent discrimination, I express my concern that such a program would not invest in international students so much as invest in preserving prejudice in American society.

The article fails to differentiate between accents resulting from regionality, such as Boston, Houston and other first language accents, and foreign native phonology, such as Chinese, French and other second-language accents. We’re expected to understand without saying that the suggestion wasn’t for UCLA to start teaching Australians to fake Californian accents.

That is, the idea that America discriminates against people for having a native language other than English is normalized as common knowledge. These are people whose accents are targeted not by virtue of the accent itself, but for its connection to their race, ethnicity or culture. The article acknowledges this as problematic. But it might consider that a better investment would positively impact diversity, holding society accountable for its prejudice rather than people for their accents.

Saying free and optional “accent reduction programs” is the solution UCLA owes its international community validates the idea that discrimination is a prerogative of American society, and that its solution is the victims’ duty to seek. Suggesting UCLA’s commitment to international students should take the form of a program that normalizes discrimination against them is only endorsing xenophobia in the guise of benevolence. If such programs are helpful, they speak more about society’s acceptance of prejudice as a norm than about the capabilities of international students.

Wang is a rising second-year history student.

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  • Man with Axe

    I’m sorry but this opinion gets it completely wrong. Someone who can’t speak English clearly in the US is not a victim. He is a perpetrator.

    Consider the case of a professor who cannot make himself understood by his students. I’ve worked with such people, and the time students spend in class is practically wasted.

    Or take the case of someone with a strong accent who is tasked with announcing departing flights at the airport. I’ve sat there trying to decipher an announcement and worrying that it could be something I’m supposed to hear but I can’t make out what is being said. Or a doctor whose patients don’t understand his instructions. The example could go on and on.

    You owe it to yourself, as well as your listeners, to learn to speak clearly. If you refuse you are the bad guy, not the victim.

    • Dre_loves_Trump

      Very well said – I’ve noticed most libs will get on the “progressive” wagon without a well thought out plan of how things will look 30 yrs from now… What’s next? Free tuition? ok, Universal basic income? ok, Free housing? ok, as you can see it’ll never end until you have no rich people left to pay for all of these measures.. Instead we should be focusing our efforts on identifying why we’re unable to pay for our own insurance, tuition, housing.. once these items switch over to a govt run system… all the laws of supply, demand and utility break down… Trust me – it won’t end well….

  • CathodeGlow

    If you speak like you just got off the boat or hiked through the Sonora Desert you should expect to work at the bottom of the economic ladder. That’s the way it is – in every country on earth. Deal.

  • Publius

    Many employers might be want to avoid a language barrier in the workplace. Whether real or imagined, the fact is this hesitation exists. And because actual work, and not social justice, pays the bills, UCLA is doing the right thing by encouraging job readiness.