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May 24th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Arizona wants to reassign teachers with accents

(CNN) - It's been a month since Arizona passed its controversial immigration law that sparked protests from coast to coast. Now, state education officials want immigrant teachers with heavy accents removed from classes for students who are still learning English. They say they are following federal guidelines set up by the Bush administration in 2002, but critics are calling it an ethnic witch hunt. Our Thelma Gutierrez looks at the new debate in this AM original report.


Filed under: AM Original • Controversy • Immigration
soundoff (239 Responses)
  1. Jaci

    I understand why they want to remove teachers with accents from the ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER classroom. I am an American teacher in Taiwan teaching English. It's frustrating when my well educated, ENGLISH MAJOR, cooperating teacher reinforces mistakes in spoken English. However, perhaps a bit of linguistic tutoring would save what are dedicated, gifted teachers doing a job no NON accented teacher seems to want. Just food for thought.

    June 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  2. amanda

    Wow, you all have some serious misconceptions about the accent in the Midwest. If you're just going off of "Fargo", please check the quality of your resources. We don't say "about" like "aboot". I would die laughing if someone did. We also don't say, "don't you know?" all the time. That would be pointless. Also, I think that any accent which severely hinders the learning process should be addressed. I do not mind accents, no matter the variety. However, I feel that Arizona would approach this on a teacher-by-teacher basis. They're not going to outlaw hiring teachers with any specific accent and to say so is undermining the goals of this state. Moreover, it specifies that only those teaching students new to English would be affected. Which makes sense. Would you want to learn Spanish from someone with a heavy Russian accent during your formative years? NO!

    June 1, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  3. tolkienista

    I think we should reassign all teachers who say "gonna" instead of "going to," "y'all" instead of "you all," and "ve-hick-le" instead of "vehicle." And if you ever say "probly" instead of "probably," you are a woeful cretin who shouldn't be allowed to teach history.

    Needless to say, I'm being facetious. But it is pretty true that whenever anyone says "get rid of the teachers with accents," what they mean is "get rid of the teachers with accents that aren't mine."

    But seriously, CNN worked hard on that video - and if you had bothered to watch it, instead of jumping into this discussion, you might have noticed that one of the teachers being targeted was featured prominently: and you could understand every word she was saying.

    May 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  4. Penelope

    What exactly is a "normal" accent anyway? Who are we to judge how people should talk? If Latin accents are being banned, then perhaps Southern accents should be banned too; afterall, isn't that where racism's roots lie in this blessed country?

    May 27, 2010 at 12:42 am |
  5. Leslie

    So, Howie, where would you draw the line? First, we'll outlaw teachers with accents. Now how about teachers with brown eyes or black hair....I suppose those in Arizona might even go as far as saying that people of color should not be allowed to teach or maybe even a specific gender should be banned from the profession. Heaven forbid that a wheelchair bound teacher should be in charge of a classroom–that might be too distracting. What you (along with the lawmakers in Arizona) fail to realize is that good teachers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and yes, speaking all sorts of dialects and accents. The number of illiterate and incapable college students is more a result of parents who've either abdicated their parental duties and who choose not to reinforce the concepts students are taught by an increasingly harried school workforce.

    May 26, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  6. Shari from Madison WI

    Wow, If we carry this travesty further, pretty soon the only teachers we will have in any subject will have absolutely no accent of any kind. Every teacher will sound exactly alike and no one will be allowed to have any kind of an accent. Teachers in SC will need to sound exactly like teachers in WI or CA. Once we go down this path it will lead to everyone either being exactly alike or, if you are not, you will be isolated or even killed.

    If you think I'm kidding, look at Nazi Germany.

    To those who support this travesty I say Heil Hitler!!!!!!

    May 26, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  7. joa

    as much as there is wrong with this policy and the immigration issue in Arizona, i've got to admit i see value in their strategy- you cannot expect students to properly learn a language when the teacher does not speak that language as a primary one....in university, my first semester spanish prof was polish....i went 4 months thinking i was learning- second semester comes along and i have a spanish spanish teacher...whoa, had i been missing out. Surely a teacher with a strong Russian (or likely in in this case, Mexican) accent, can teach social studies or math properly, but to teach english defeats the purpose and minimizes a student's chace at learning the basics properly.

    May 26, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  8. Jenna

    I think it's ridiculous. This immigration issue is gettin out of hand. We have mostly Hispanics and white people in this country. Why shouldn't we post Spanish signs as well as English. Seriously get over it. We are no longer an all English culture. Were diverse. I don't know why it's so hard for you people to understand.

    May 26, 2010 at 9:04 am |
  9. Gene

    first of all, Arizona doesnt want any accent but "American" which means "white person" also, an irish national is being audited and he's as close to england ie; the native language as you can get.

    people who want clear understandable accents are people who are too lazy to figure out the grammar and syntax of another culture.

    i had one teacher who was illocos syntax filipino, another who was pidgin hawaiian, a new zealander, and a british person.

    i'm sorry Arizona, but here in hawaii, your narrow beliefs and racism dont fly.

    May 26, 2010 at 4:27 am |
  10. el polacko

    ...oops... that should be "how IS" not "does" .... hahaha... maybe i need an english refresher course myself.

    May 26, 2010 at 2:31 am |
  11. el polacko

    how does someone who barely speaks english themselves supposed to teach english ?? this is just a common sense decision by the state. i'm sure that it's the teacher's unions who are raising the cry of racism. they protect bad teachers at all costs and it's the students who lose.

    May 26, 2010 at 2:28 am |
  12. WireDawg

    I am also going to guess none of you have ever tried to call after hours customer support and then get transfered to some call center in India. Yeah you know exactly what I am talking about. Nobody wants and/or should have to deal with that garabage.

    May 26, 2010 at 1:59 am |
  13. WireDawg

    Anyone who thinks this is wrong is foolish. I see one of you speaks about the "American dream". Well America is going to the crapper because of this "mix of ethnic groups". I am not trying to be racist but seriously look at where the majority of crime, drugs, and abuse of the systems we have in place to help the poor are coming from. The only reason you say this is "wrong" is because they aren't doing this to your country. How would you feel if a bunch of thick accented russians came to teach your kid(s) in school. Next thing you know your kids grades are dropping and your kid(s) say it's because they can't understand the teacher. I am sure this is happening here and I will bet that most people are afraid to say anything about it due to being labeled as a rasicst. This politically correct crap needs to stop now and we need to step up to the plate before it's too late.

    May 26, 2010 at 1:51 am |
  14. Alexandra

    Wow. Why don't they begin targeting singers, actors and regular people walking down the streets as well? Seriously, people attempting to learn the English language will not only learn from their teachers, but mainly also from the people in their area along with their surroundings, which, include businesses such as the television and the music industries. I hear poorly spoken English out of the mouths of native born citizens of the United States more often now that slang is even more common and well accepted throughout the American society. Besides, a teacher who is capable of relating to their student will be of more assistance compared to one who has never had the problem of trying to properly learn a second language. In addition, do we not have our very own unique accents here in the United States? For example, those from New York have a "New Yorker accent" while those from Chicago have a "Chicago accent." People from both states linguistically pronounce their words differently. Unless you can properly and effectively teach billions of people to pronounce the English language the exact same way with the exact same accent (do not forget those in England as well), I suggest you begin attempting to change things which really matter. You can begin with changing how the morals in the American society have greatly diminished.

    May 26, 2010 at 1:47 am |
  15. MM

    Many of the comments seem to forget that THESE TEACHERS ARE *LEGAL* IMMIGRANTS. I'm all in favor of laws against illegal immigrants, but don't bring your feelings about illegal immigration, whatever they may be, into this topic.

    May 26, 2010 at 1:32 am |
  16. Joshua

    After reading through the long list of comments for this article one thing became clear. Everyone who is against having a teacher who speaks clearly with no grammatical errors needs to really take a step back and think about what they are saying. I find it hard to believe that people would willing blind themselves to the fact that people shouldn’t be teaching english to kids if they cannot speak the language fluently themselves. Would you want someone who cannot do math to teach your children algebra? Right now America has one of the worst educational systems in the developed world and you people are telling me that it is ok to let sub par teachers attempt to educate our children. People need to stop flying off the handle when it comes to the race issue, that just gives corruption another tool to smear good judgement. Do you really think that they would do something so racist as to only reassign the hispanic teachers when they have such an “Arizona is Racist” smear campaign in the media right now? In the name of “The White Man is racist!” we are up in arms about someone trying to audit educators to see if they are suitable to teach. Did any of you notice that the reporter, the main teacher and the “Linguistic Specialist” from the video were all hispanic? To me it looks like someone has an agenda to push, the hot ticket issue right now is the Arizona immigration law because it is so “controversial.” If you think that cops will pull people over for being “brown” you are a waste of water and minerals. Do any of you know how many “brown” people are in Phoenix, AZ alone, get real, you people are whinning just to hear yourselves whine.

    May 25, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  17. Tyler

    A lot of people to have come on here to express their opinions do not live in the south west. There's a large difference in mentality between people from the mid west and people from the south west (just as an example). Arizona, Southern Cali, and parts of Texas are becoming Mexico. It's like living in Tijuana. The specials in Wal-mart are all said in Spanish then English. I speak a lot of Spanish and have never had to take a Spanish class!!!! What country are you supporting? Mexico or the US?

    May 25, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  18. Jessica Paige

    HAHAHAHAH I love this... "Those teachers with very heavy accents need to go to linguistics classes to get rid of their heavy accents, so they teach American children in clear and proper English."

    You realise that they cannot get rid of their accents, right? It is near impossible to get rid of an accent. My aunt has been in the united states for over 20 years. Her first language is Spanish. She's from Central America.. not Mexico. She's had her visa for over 15 years. She's a kindergarten teacher.

    You guys all complain about the teaching shortage and how there's not enough teachers and how they're all going on strike and now you're telling them to GET RID OF TEACHERS because of their accents... and you'll be lucky as hell to get anyone to take the position!! Teachers are underpaid, underappreciated, and no one wants to take the job anymore.. and you're all driving out the few that do! This is rich...

    Our children's education problems do not stem from the schools, they stem from the parents that do not give a hoot. If the parents dont care, the schools don't get funding, and the teachers end up not giving a hoot because they're not getting paid. What comes around goes around and don't you forget it.

    May 25, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  19. Steven

    Students need to learn how to understand English spoken with accents. Once they get into the university level, most their science TA's will be from other countries. Trust me on this.

    May 25, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  20. Jules

    For all the complaining the people of Arizona do about pretty much everything having to do with Latino immigrants, why would you hire someone with a thick accent to teach English in the first place? Isn't that kind of a bonehead move? Methinks the issues with the Arizona education system run far deeper than teachers with accents, but hey, keep up the idiotic and racist antics, Arizona. I'm from Florida and we had such a hard time after the 2000 election. It's about time another state in the union outshine Florida in sheer stupidity.

    May 25, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  21. Brian Woodward

    When I learned Spanish, the best teachers I had were the talking heads on the Latino news channels because they spoke it so well. I wouldn't have wanted to learn it from someone with a heavy Gringo accent. Requiring English teachers to be able to speak English well isn't a witch hunt, it's common sense. Why does everybody seem to want to be a victim of something these days?

    May 25, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  22. Bryan

    This is a good policy. I feel every educational institution should adopt it. I have had to drop classes taught by teachers with foreign accents. The simple fact is I would not have been able to grasp the material if I can't understand what was spoken.
    On a side note, they said "reassigned". They did NOT say "fired". Relax.

    May 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  23. J.B. Smith in Fla

    @ rockN504....
    You saying we all came here in boats is just a joke right?
    Sorry fella. I was born here. This is" MY" country.
    If you don't like our way of thinking ( the people of this state voted this law into effect ) go back where you came from. I'm sure the Country you are from is great, why else would you leave it to come here....Right?

    It is time to build a wall and post out of work people with guns on it to protect our borders!.... But wait, if we get rid of all the illegal immigrants...we won't have such a problem with unemployment.
    So we could create new jobs for skilled marksmen.

    May 25, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  24. Urinal Gum

    Can't decide which side to argue. I am a grammer Nazi, but I am also extremely liberal. Can't decide.

    May 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  25. Nick

    Hiding posts to further ignorance? Nice. Howie's post is the pinnacle of ignorance, and I don't buy it.

    May 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  26. mike

    Have you ever talked to a computer tech support person from a foreign country and you could not understand a word they are saying.

    Well there you go that is why!

    May 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  27. Red

    So this clear and proper English which you require? I know it's not British or Australian English for that has an improper and unacceptable foreign accent, right? But is New York (pronounced "Yawwk") English ok? How about (pronounced "a boat") Minnesota English? And no one is more American than pistol carryin', coyote shootin' Texans, are they allowed to teach y'all's children?
    Yup, we definitely don't want folks with an accent teaching!

    May 25, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  28. Potatoes

    They're not even saying they'll be fired. It says right in the title of the article "REASSIGNED." Have them teach global studies or something if they're from another country, or state history if they have a heavy local accent. They are MORE than qualified for that. English, not so much.

    Also, American English and British English are considered two different languages.

    May 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  29. Venelein

    Of course being able to speak the language properly affects the level of education the students are getting... They are being taught ENGLISH, not history or geometry. They sort of need to know what it sounds like. If you were taught French by a person with a heavy southern accent, you're not going to be speaking French right and nobody in France is going to understand you. Your tax dollars go to teaching these kids to be illiterate.

    There is no racism here at all. White people have incomprehensible
    accents too. Get over it.

    May 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  30. Lauren

    I have a Philadelphia accent, excellent grammar and spelling skills. How long will it be before someone like me won't be allowed to teach English in Arizona because I don't sound like an Arizonan? Everyone has an accent. I would imagine students from other countries might feel comfortable learning English from teachers from other countries as long as those teachers are competent in grammar and spelling. Oh, but I forgot. Arizona wants to get rid of the students from other countries, too...

    I learned Spanish in high school from a Czech woman. I enjoyed her classes so much and learned so well that I ended up majoring in Spanish in college. Why don't we stop racial profiling and looking for ways to get rid of people who aren't just like us and fix the immigration laws so they work correctly in the first place?

    May 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  31. lobrien

    Judging by the grammar and spelling in most of these posts, it's already too late. Most of the right wingers posting here have substandard grammar and speaking skills anyway. I suppose that Arizona will probably start censoring literature that it finds offensive as a next step. Once the bookburnings start, it's time to leave. Unless you think you look good in a brown shirt and tie.

    May 25, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  32. Mark Mason

    The teacher in the CNN newscast from Brazil (Christina Parsons) had 2 degrees and more than likely speaks 3 languages: Portuguese, Spanish and English

    Why are the lawmakers in Arizona on a selective witch hunt? If you audit the public schools then audit those Turkish nationalists that teach at our taxpayer supported Charter Schools in Arizona. What about the Teacher fired from her Charter School in Arizona for beating her student (caught on video)

    Mr. Horne while you are at it, audit the background of history teacher Cherie Norris. She uses foul language, has threatened a parent and has a facebook page where she has "friended" many of the children in her class and speaks about other students. Meanwhile Ms. Norris boasts of being a VFW (Vietnam Veteran) and speaks of certain entitlements that are owed to her. Cherie also frequently visits Turkey and is learning Turkish.

    Ms. Norris is crass, crude and obnoxious. She should not be teaching or shaping the minds of our children.

    May 25, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  33. Jean-Paul

    In its essence, this is not directly targeting anyone. Unfortunately, in it's application, those who will be targeted are those with Spanish accents, not Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino (etc.) accents.

    It is undeniable that to teach English, one should be able to speak it properly first. But, in this case, they are seeking to remove teachers with Spanish accents from teaching Spanish-speaking students at all in any subject matter. This makes no sense to me, especially since for example Latino students will most likely identify better with a Latino teacher, facilitating their learning experience.

    If someone hires an ENGLISH teacher who speaks with any accent, the person hiring has failed his/her students.

    As far as college students having issues understanding a professor, drop the class and find one with a different instructor.

    In a side note, if you live in Arizona, might as well pile all of your books written by Latino/Hispanic authors on your yard seeing as how mobs will be tearing through your neighborhood with torches, ready to destroy the evil that exists in them.

    May 25, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  34. Vince

    I cannot believe some of the comments I read here. Have you ever gone to a real school? Communication is the means that teachers have to teach. Have you applied to a job in the past 20 years that isn’t menial labor, the top requirement is communication!

    Only people that have no education can consider this a bad thing.

    I want what is happening in Arizona to apply to the rest of the country!

    Mastery of the English Language should be a primary qualification for teachers in the United States, especially in the formative years.

    I cannot accept anything different because I was born outside the US. I became a legal citizen. I learned to speak English to the point that after High School, people had no idea that I was not born in the US.

    All of you that want anything different are simply ignorant, Un-American, and do not belong here. I also do not want to pay for the failures you are raising.

    May 25, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  35. Dave Szigety

    Just wonderful! Following guidelines set up by the Bush Admin in 2002. What took you so long? Why did it take you EIGHT YEARS to follow the guidelines? That's EIGHT YEARS where you just didn't care about your childrens' educations? Total bunk AZ!!!! And by the way, you can still become president of the U.S. even if you can't pronounce NUCLEAR.

    May 25, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
  36. NL

    While I don't agree with the new immigration laws... I have to admit, just speaking from experience, learning from a teacher who has trouble expressing themselves in a foreign language is next to impossible.

    I'm not talking about people "with heavy accents". I really don't have that much difficulty understanding people with accents different from my own, and neither do a lot of people. I'm talking about teachers who speak in broken and grammatically incorrect English in *addition* to having a heavy accent... whom I've found tend to far outnumber the teachers who simply have a heavy accent but understand and can speak English.

    May 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  37. Wakeup Wimps

    I have read some comments on the Arizona imiggration law about how their civel rights are being violated, Big news flash folks, they are not americans and they are breaking the law and last time I checked here in america when you break the law you pay the price that goes for everyone,if you are here illegal you need to expect your butt sent back whether you have family here or not you are aware of the price you will have to pay when you get caught, as far as I'm concerned you are the same as a thief, coming to our counrty sneaking across the border and stealing our younger gerations jobs, and bringing our wages down so you can send our money back to Mexico WAKEUP AMERICA!

    May 25, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  38. TimL

    First off: The United States of America does NOT have a national language. English is NOT our national language. We also do NOT have a national religion.

    Secondly, English is a bastardized language made up of words from dozens of other languages. One persons opinion on the right way say something is as acceptable as your opinion on the right way. This is why West coast sound different than east coast. This is also why there are several other dialects in the south.

    Arizona needs to get off their racism high-horse and come back down to reality. The sun and heat has obviously gotten to you.

    May 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  39. Cathy N

    The people interveiwed spoke English well enough to be understood, and used proper grammer.
    There are people who speak with an accent so thick that they cannot be understood, and should not be teaching anyone.
    Just yesterday, there was a boy at my house, a white boy, and he spoke so lazily that I could not understand what he was asking me.
    He said "Where did you get that (wall)?" I asked him to repeat himself a couple of times, and my son finally said he was asking where I got the wolf. A picture on the wall.
    In context, I thought he was stoned out of his gourd, asking where I got a wall.

    May 25, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
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