When I first read the headline of this New York Times article, In Arizona, Complaints That an Accent Can Hinder a Teacher’s Career, I asked myself “Does an accent really hinder a teacher’s ability to teach?”. This article describes how Guadalupe V. Aguayo, a second grade teacher in the Creighton Elementary School District in central Phoenix, felt she was being discriminated against because of her noticeable Spanish accent. After Ms. Aguayo’s principal questioned her accent, she took a college acting class, saw a speech pathologist and consulted with an accent reduction specialist, none of which made a difference in her speech. Later, she filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being told that her accent would not allow her to teach students learning English.
‘I have the same credentials as everyone else, and I don’t think it’s fair that I’m being singled out,’ Ms. Aguayo said, adding that her school has teachers with a variety of regional American accents. ‘I know I have an accent. It’s been hard to get rid of it. I think I’ll always have it.’
Ms. Aguayo clearly has put time and effort into reducing her accent in order to better meet the standards of teaching English to her students. After listening to her voice recording, its apparent that she has a heavy accent, but her English is not incomprehensible. Her students, who are mostly Latino, are understanding her instructions and are learning English properly in terms of grammar and syntax. If the students are learning proper standardized American English, then the accent of the instructor should not matter. State education officials should not disallow instructors to teach students English on the basis of one’s accent. Is accented English not considered proper English? Is accented pronunciation not correct?