Did you know that British kids’ TV, if broadcast in the US, is generally dubbed with American accents? Or that British sitcoms tend to be remade for the US market rather than broadcast? Oh, cable for the elite might pick them up, but the free-to-air channels are unlikely to.
In North Dakota, the Chronicle writes, a bill has just been proposed to allow students to vote out teachers who speak with un-American accents. Students are consumers, Ms. Grande, who proposed the bill, stresses, and should get their money back if they say they can’t understand their teacher. If 10% of the students in a class (so, 2 students in a class of 20) say they can’t understand the teacher, the teacher should be permanently banned from teaching.
One issue is that many suburban Americans are kept blissfully (and surprisingly) monocultural and shielded from unfamiliar accents. Another is the question of whether students should have such arbitrary power over instructors (I don’t like her, let’s say she speaks funny) and yet another is that it’s not just about intelligibility. In the article, an experiment is described where two groups of students were played the same audio tape of a lecture given by a man with a standard Ohio accent. Half the group saw images of a white American while half were shown an Asian. The students who’d seen the Asian did 20% worse on subsequent tests than the students who’d seen a white American.
It should be a graduation requirement that students are able to understand well-formed but accented English, Rubin, the man behind the experiments, says to the journalist.
The woman who proposed the bill disagrees:
At this notion, Ms. Grande balks. She thinks of all the countries she has visited — Israel, Egypt, Honduras. “In every place, what was the main thing they wanted to do?” Ms. Grande asks. “To communicate with the American. They knew that, throughout their lives, if they wanted advancement they would have to do everything they could to communicate with us.”
Can you believe the bigotry, the jingoism?
I wonder if they ever conducted the test with the audio and the images with a man and a woman. You could play an audio tape of one of those androgynous voices, and show a man and woman’s images to different groups of students. Given that The History Channel has a policy to only use male narrators, since female narrators aren’t seen as equally authoritative, I’d not be surprised if students score worse if they think their teacher is female. Or African American or in a wheelchair or old or young.
How about letting students vote on that. Get a refund if their teacher is too female or British or Indian? After all, you’ve been around. It’s obvious: “In every place, what was the main thing they wanted to do? To communicate with the Man. They knew that, throughout their lives, if they wanted advancement they would have to do everything they could to communicate with us.”
Yeah, keep using only male narrators, dub the Teletubbies and only allow Ohio-accented teachers in universities. (via Profgrrrl)