I write in response to Geoffrey Cartridge's letter ("Clear English in short supply," June 19, page 8). First, I have a question for the author. Where can I go to get "neutrally-accented" English certification? I have heard this nonsense from various people, though the supposed "neutral accent" always mysteriously adheres closely to the speaker's native accent (quite a coincidence there).
I agree with the author that "it is necessary to practise conversational and grammatically correct English frequently to develop a proficiency in the language." However, in schools where this is not being done, it has much more to do with the methodology used in the classroom and the training (or lack thereof) in the teachers rather than where the teacher comes from.
A simple fact is that the majority of teachers in Taiwan don't know a gerund from an infinitive, much less how to teach proper grammatical usage. Because of this, various teaching methods emphasize "using the language rather than talking about it" (i.e., don't bother teaching the rules because the teachers don't know them anyway).
None of this has anything to do with accents -- the author's rather jaundiced perceptions notwithstanding. Ironically, the vast majority of teachers in Taiwan aren't even from the US, but rather Canada, South Africa, and Australia.
I have known and worked with effective teachers from these and other countries. I have also known and worked with complete frauds from many different countries. Accents can cause initial difficulties, but can usually be overcome as long as the teacher is an effective educator.
I find one of the author's comments particularly amusing and ironic: "English can be a strongly accented language, and even I, a `neutrally accented' Australian with many years of teaching experience, have difficulty understanding not only US English, but also South African, Indian, Scot and Irish-accented English." I have heard these very words often spoken about the accents of Australians.
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