LETTER: Speaking English with no accent in Korea

28 October 2002
AN AD by a recruitment agency inviting BA graduates to apply for English teaching posts in Korea appeared on page 7, Monday Paper, October 07. It requires the applicants to speak fluent English without an accent and no teaching experience is needed.

Could the requirement about the lack of an accent not be problematic? Am I daft to believe that all speakers of English do so with an accent?

An obvious read between the lines and a conclusion is reached — that speakers of English, no matter their qualifications to teach the language competently to non-English speakers, do not qualify for these posts if they speak the language with an accent that does not find favour with this recruitment agency! From this I do not think it takes much to see who will and who will not stand a chance of getting these jobs.

One wonders if Stephan (the name of the contact person in the ad) ever thought of how unattractive and insulting his and his agency's/sponsor's intentions become when they, in their insular way of thinking, practise subtle discrimination of this sort!

Six of my friends and acquaintances — all very well spoken and with thick, Cape second language English-laced accents — teach English in Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

These individuals were chosen (and good for those who did the choosing) for their competence, ability and excellent qualifications! Not because their way of speaking English does not sound English (or American?) enough. In fact I am told by them that, in their subversive leftist manner (!) they actively promote the view amongst their learners that English as a multi-national language, comes with many different accents and that, contrary to the stereotype, America and England are not the sole holy grail of the (spoken) English language.

Going on the requirements of this ad, a large majority of UCT students would be excluded. Does Monday Paper have a position on this?

— Paul Sedres
College of Music

Editors' reply:
We do. We have drafted an advertising policy, which is awaiting approval. This will provide some guidelines for advertisers with regard to discrimination, inequality, etc.

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