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Language accent describes the sound that attributes to pronunciation of certain or the entire verbal sounds of a variety of vowels and consonants among others. There has been a variation in the way the different individuals within any given societal setup produce verbal sounds attributed to a variety of common words with respective to the language spoken.
The English language is a foreign language, which is learned gradually, because a variety of individuals has the first language of their lives being the mother tongue (local community language within any given society).
Accent discrimination refers to the unequal treatment experienced by individuals by virtue of the peculiarity of the quality of voice, and pronunciation as viewed by their immediate individuals, location, or nation.
It occurs when negative attitudes toward or prejudice against certain accents evolves into actions that harm in social, education, and employment settings. A combination of different society dialects affects a person’s pronunciation. The language spoken during childhood is native as compared to the second language acquired due to society changes, immigration to foreign places, and influence of modern times.
Effects of Accent discrimination
Accent prejudices people’s interests, and the overall view about other individuals (accented speakers). Such accent discrimination is usually brought about because of stereotyping (associating the speech patterns to certain prejudiced groups), if the accented speech has complexity in terms of comprehension, and has intelligibility issues (Valle, 2003).
ESL learners are those individuals who are learning the English language as the second language, but have another language of communication. The original language used influences the accent of pronunciation, which is also influenced due to migration to different places occupied by diverse communities with a variety of language variability.
The learners of English as a second language have been greatly affected because of the discrimination faced from other individuals because of the difference in pronunciation. This has brought about the feeling of inferiority for the accented speakers compared to the native speaking individuals.
It has limited the freedom of accented individuals in terms of association, and involvement in the overall productivity. Accent discrimination has drastically influenced the entire learning process of ESL, as they are viewed as being unintelligent and not able to fluently communicate to the entire community, they are viewed as being antisocial due to speech defect and of a low social class compared to those without accent.
There has also been development of negative attitudes from the natives towards accented persons, including the ESL teachers, for example, the learners may fool around with pronunciations heard which affects the entire learning process, or they may be viewed as slow learners who are unable to grasp and understand the concepts of basic pronunciations.
There has been a limitation in terms of immigration of individuals because of the feeling developed by persons wishing to move from one place to the other, limiting their freedom of movement.
Accent discrimination has gradually influenced the glass ceiling effect in the employment sector. Majority of the employees seeking jobs have been side lined and marginalized on grounds of language fluency in terms with regard to their pronunciation, and required skills, which is viewed as being a bona-fide occupational requirement.
Although the individuals may possess a minimum of the required working skills, the encroachment of accent discrimination from the respective employers denies such individuals the opportunity because the employers have a prejudice feeling that accented individuals will not either represent the organizations effectively, or are unproductive and incompetent in their endeavors (Munro, 2003).
Also, due to accent stereotyping of individuals from specific originalities, which has led to linguistic profiling, and has resulted into the denial of certain vital services to individuals who are viewed as being not worthy for the services.
Harassment of the individuals occurs because of the prevailing constant ridicule and criticism from the natives concerning language skills. These individuals face bullying, harsh treatment, and degrading comments from other superiors who tend to look down upon such individuals possessing limited knowledge and language accent.
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Such ridiculing of the accented individuals is associated with disrespectfulness and negative behavior towards persons with accent, making them to be seen and identified as outsiders or strangers who are unwelcome within the various settings, and in totality the overall result is preliminary negativity of all the attributes that concern the accented individuals (Chen, 2010).
Language is a vital tool for effective communication between varieties of individuals without any regards to personal background. The accents that are developed by different individuals are brought about by the different pronunciation of vowels and consonants, which occur due to influence of the native languages exhibited by individuals, who adopt and learn the second language, and immigration of new individuals to a given location, region or state.
Such differences in pronunciation has caused varied discrepancies that have drastically led to accent discrimination within various settings in the entire community, resulting into marginalization and unequal treatment of accented individuals in terms of education, employment, and the general view from the society.
Accented discrimination effects have been mostly felt in the western countries due to the diversity of languages spoken in various states. In general, accent discrimination has denied individuals equal treatment from the native society.
Chen, W, E. (2010). Encyclopedia of Asian American Issues Today, Volume 1. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. Web.
Munro, J, M. (2003). A Primer on Accent Discrimination in the Canadian Context. Web.
Valle, D, S. (2003). Language rights and the law in the United States: finding our voices. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Web.