Fri, Sep 22, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letters: Accent is unimportant

Kao Shih-fan (高士凡) was right on the money in his article ("Does a native accent really matter?" Sept. 19, page 8).

I am an English conversation teacher and I have also taught in Japan. In both places, there is far too much emphasis on the importance of a "native" accent. This is damaging both to the confidence of the students as well as to their general learning of the language, given the time it takes away from more important points of conversational fluency and comfort in the language.

One issue Kao didn't touch on was how this leads to discrimination against other accents. New Zealand, Singapore, Jamaica, India, the Philippines and Belize, to name a few, are native speakers in that English is either an official language or widely used.

And yet, in Taiwan, the majority of schools won't hire teachers from these countries. I say this as a person with the desired North American accent (albeit with a Northwest twang). The most important qualities in an English teacher are energy, enthusiasm and a desire to teach, not the accent.

Peter Lang


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