Concern over accented teachers not original to Arizona
The state of Arizona has gotten a lot of attention lately for its decision to remove teachers who speak with pronounced foreign accents and/or whose speech is ungrammatical from classrooms with students learning to speak English.
But the idea wasn’t original to the Arizona Board of Education.
Almost 20 years ago, there was a proposal to ban teachers with accents from some elementary classrooms where kids were still learning English in Westfield, Mass., according to a 1992 New York Times story.
The city’s mayor, George Varelas, a Greek immigrant who spoke with an accent, actually agreed with the proposed ban. He was quoted as saying:
"Persons like myself -- and I cannot be confused with someone from Boston or Alabama -- should not be in a self-contained classroom for a full year teaching 5- and 6-year-olds the multitude of phonetic differences that exist in the English language. I would only impart my confusion and give them my defects in terms of language."
But the teachers were never reassigned.
The office of the State Attorney General said such a proposal would have violated the state's anti-discrimination laws, and the school board never adopted the measure.
Times have apparently changed; Arizona officials don't seem worried about being accused of discrimination.
It is also safe to assume that they never saw a research study conducted in Israel that I recently wrote about, which concluded that students learn a second language better from a teacher who speaks in the same accent as they do.
The study, published in the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, said that students learning from a teacher with the same accent have an easier time understanding the material because they don’t have to spend time trying to understand the English in a different accent.
Why let facts get in the way?
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| May 25, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Learning | Tags: arizona and accents, arizona remove teachers with accents, foreign accents and teachers, research on teachers with accents, teachers with accents
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