Writing this essay felt a lot more different to me than writing the others. I grew a genuine sense of caring for the subject in a way I thought I never would. The evidence is definitely what impacted me the most in this essay. It was one thing to talk about accent discrimination, but once you look at how much evidence there is to prove its very present existence, you sort of have to wonder how no one pays attention to it. It’s in everyday life and people just ignore it because they don’t know about it. Which is why I like writing essays like this that could actually raise more awareness about the issue. Finding all this evidence was also surprisingly easy for me which is why this phase mostly helped me to Locate research sources. The different discussions and lessons we had to show how to find evidence helped a lot and because I used key words, I was able to research the topic quickly and easily. A meaningful insight I’ve gained regarding language and literacy is the structure of introductions and conclusions as well as a thesis. In my last essay, I felt like my introduction was really basic, while the one in this essay isn’t spectacular, it feels much more solid in my opinion. The conclusion also has more purpose in this essay, mainly because made sure to restate the main ideas that were mentioned. I liked my thesis a bit more this time too because there was a lot more flexibility with what my topics could be focused on. I would have liked to go a bit deeper into the topic if the page limit was a bit longer, but I am satisfied with the amount I was able to say in this essay. My essay in the last phase was a bit more difficult to find research on because of how specific it was, so this thesis felt like a good in between. With all this being said there was one question I was stuck on, that being who my audience is.. I could say the professor and students, but that’s obvious. The question is not who will be reading it, but who it was meant for. While it is meant for the professor and students, I feel like there’s other people it’s meant for too. To be completely honest I always struggle a bit to answer this question and without a doubt overthink it. If it was meant for people with accents that relate to the topics, that would ruin the point. The point being to bring awareness to the issue. I know this isn’t going to be some published paper in the new york times, but for some reason I always answer this question as if it were. I could say its for people without accents, but then it would be excluding the group the essay is about. So I guess the right answer is the essay is for everyone. I’m hesitant to say that because its the answer I always give, but here especially it seems like the right one.
Mental impacts of accent discrimination and how it happens
Millions of people Living in America and other countries have accents. Each one tells a story about where a person is from, and where they are now, its is something that is developed like a piece of character, yet it has still caused people to be treated lesser than others without accents. There are many ways accents can be discriminated against, and some are harsher than others, but no matter the case, Accent discrimination has a negative mental and social impact on people with accents. Whether it be intentional or unintentional, accents are often discriminated against in everyday life. However there are also ways to spot it and avoid it.
Before going into how accent discrimination makes someone feel and why it makes them feel like that, it is important to know a few concepts of accents discrimination. One of them is Ethnocentrism. Simply put, Ethnocentrism is taking one culture or ethnicity, and comparing it to every other. Even more simply, it is the idea of a potential subconscious superiority complex based on culture. Examples of this are found all around, one example is shown in an article from LinkedIn that states “The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission have recently uncovered a great deal of evidence that recruiters favored people with certain accents over others, regardless of their academic merit. One the one hand, many immigrants to the UK have reported experiencing negative treatment that they can attribute to their foreign accents”(Russell). When accents matter more than qualifications, there is clearly an issue that is not being addressed nearly as seriously as it should be. This example shows that the idea exists, but it may only happens a few times. However this concept becomes a lot more real and concrete when significant evidence such as a scholarly article is created. The scholarly article ‘A Short Note on Accent–bias, Social Identity and Ethnocentrism’ states:
In the USA, students with standard American English (SAE) perceived speakers with foreign accents to be inferior speakers, though the speakers had high scores on objective measures of comprehensibility and speech intelligibility; students in the USA preferred courses taught by teachers who use standard American accent (Chakraborty 3).
Seeing someone as inferior because of how they speak, and preferring listening to a more familiar voice based on how that own person speaks, is a great example of ethnocentrism. While this might happen without people meaning to cause harm, it still occurs and that is the issue. Favoritism is a concept that many are familiar with, simply being clear about having a favorite of something. However, ethnocentrism breeds a dangerous kind of favoritism, a kind that could turn into blatant discrimination and racism.
The way people act towards others will always make people feel something in response. Whether it be excitement, joy, sorrow, confusion or anything else, things people say always provoke an emotion. However, it would seem that an overwhelming majority of the time when commenting or more specifically questioning someone’s accent, the results are negative. This would mean saying things like ‘can you say that again, your accent is hard to understand’ and ‘why do you speak like that?’. For many people, an accent is part of their identity, and part of who they are. Many people are proud of it, but constant comments about an accent that might degrade it in any way leave a toll on those who have accents. Being talked down to is something that many immigrants and people with accents feel, and it could be very harmful mentally. Out of the countless people that experience accent discrimination, one example comes from an opinion piece by Aakanksha Sinha from the Aragon Outlook. Sinha recalls how her classmate’s made fun of her pronunciation of the letter H, being ‘Hetch’ instead of ‘aytch’. Something so miniscule shouldn’t be an issue, but it was made fun of anyway, and it clearly left a mark. The article reads “I started to feel insecure and excluded based on my Indian identity. I tried hard to change how I spoke, so I wasn’t mocked. I felt as if being born in America was significantly better than being born somewhere else, as if being an immigrant was somehow wrong” (Sinha). This is a feeling that thousands if not millions of people could relate to. Being seen as less than because of where someone came from is something that goes on in everyday life and nothing is said about it. There is a clear bias, and whether it be from internal bias or intention, it results in seriously negative mental affects such as major insecurity, trying to change how one speaks, and questioning identity. Accent Discrimination also affects people at a young age. One article states “One study found that adolescents exposed to discrimination and who have high levels of depressive symptoms use an avoidance coping response more frequently. Other studies demonstrate that minority youth exposed to discrimination were more likely to engage in nonphysical aggression, aggressive or retaliatory behavior, and drug use” (Vines, Ward, Cordoba, Black). Accent discrimination may be a problem with adults, but that does not mean children do not face the same issues. And these issues could negatively impact kids just as badly, as well as affect mental development. There are many impacts on something as simple as words, and it is important to know not only how it affects a person, but why.
It is clear that a harsh negative effect occurs on people with accents when being discriminated against. But why does discrimination happen so often? One factor is how people with accents are perceived to the brain of someone that does not have an accent. A study done at UC Berkely was done to compare the neurological reaction to accents. One study included IAT, or implicit association test. Implicit association test could be used to find internal bias, which is why it was used to find bias against accents in this study and was conducted by having people listen to East Asian accents. This was said as a result:
This study revealed that native American English listeners who had greater implicit bias with Asian to foreign and Caucasian to American associations experienced more hardships in comprehending English sentences that were spoken by native Korean speakers compared to native English speakers. The study on cognitive processes shows that having a foreign accent negatively influences credibility and reliability as a person regardless of social status (Sethi, Rho, Vasquez, Worley 7).
This study concludes that there is a bias towards people with accents, which the study theorizes is due to comprehension. It is possible that because any accent is less understandable to someone with no accent specifically because it is not what they are used to hearing, they trust the accent less. Perhaps clarity and comprehension, or perhaps just even a different way of speaking is enough to subconsciously make someone feel less associated with the person, thus creating a bias towards them. Keep in mind that this is not factual, but at the same time very likely. Another important note is that this study and result is not associated with everyone. There are, unfortunately, people who hear specific accents and think less of a person because of it out of choice, this study is more for the majority of people that internally discriminate against accents without intending to. This is well explained in a BBC article, explaining “Not every type of linguistic discrimination is intentional; many people who think they’re being inclusive don’t understand that their inherent biases are pushing them to make judgements they don’t even know they’re making.” (Ro) While not intended, not knowing the damage being caused makes the issue worse than everyone being aware.
There are so many ways that accent discrimination affects people, but what should be done about it? Before anything could be done, people must first know about the issue. This is why I believe it is important to have awareness of events regarding accent and linguistic discrimination. Policies to be careful about how you treat people with accents should be taught in workplaces as well. BBC describes this well in an article that says “First, organizations need to be strategic about having ongoing conversations about linguistic diversity as a type of diversity, educating staff about how language-related biases affect communications and opportunities and incorporating this into policies” (Ro). It is important to be sincere yet strategic about how to solve the issue, it is important to teach people about the issue before they are told to combat it because if people don’t know about what they are trying to fix, they won’t care enough to fix it. Once people know about the issue, it is important to teach them to keep in mind what they say and how it could affect people. It is a very small ask, but it can make a significant difference. This is an issue that has been avoided for a very long time, and it is time to finally change that.
This cartoon is simple yet sums up accent discrimination well. Even with the silly and cartoonish style, there is a very real subject matter being talked about. It is an issue that not only is started on a psychological level, psychologically affects people with accents. It may be intentional or may not be, but accent discrimination is seen in many forms such as ethnocentrism, However, there are ways to help stop it. These ways are simple, yet both improve awareness to the issue and help those who have been affected.
Chakraborty, Rahul. “Advances in Language and Literary Studies – .” Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 2017, https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1153679.pdf.
Gadoua, Renée K. “Accent Discrimination: Invisible Source of Social Bias.” Syracuse University News, 25 October 2018, https://news.syr.edu/blog/2018/10/25/accent-discrimination-invisible-source-of-social-bias/. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Quotemaster. “Quotes about Language discrimination (22 quotes).” Quote Master, https://www.quotemaster.org/language+discrimination. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Ro, Christine. “The Pervasive Problem of ‘Linguistic Racism’.” BBC Worklife, BBC, 2021,
Russell, Paul. “Does your Accent impact how People treat You?” LinkedIn, 22 February 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/does-your-accent-impact-how-people-treat-you-paul. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Sethi, Shyam, et al. “How Do Foreign Accents Impact Perception and Credibility? Mentees: Shyam Sethi, Daniel Rho, Areli Vasquez, Taylor C. Worley Men.” eScholarship, 2020, https://escholarship.org/content/qt68s4038j/qt68s4038j_noSplash_3d1a55a21c9c6096bccfdfd31d4d7367.pdf?t=qb7aas. Accessed 15 November 2021.
Sinha, Aakanksha. “Opinion: how racism behind accent discrimination strips identities.” The Aragon Outlook, 25 March 2021, https://aragonoutlook.org/2021/03/how-racism-behind-accent-discrimination-strips-identities/. Accessed 15 November 2021.Vines, Anissa I, et al. “Perceived Racial/Ethnic Discrimination and Mental Health: A Review and Future Directions for Social Epidemiology.” Current Epidemiology Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5596659/.