Linguistic discrimination is a term used to refer to the unfair treatment of an individual based solely on their use of language. This use of language may include the individual's native language or other characteristics of the person's speech, such as an accent, the size of vocabulary (whether the person uses complex and varied words), and syntax.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and national origin. And in 1987, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission more specifically defined national origin to include linguistic characteristics of a national origin (EEO, 1987). Under this law, however, employers have some latitude. Employers can deny employment if the accent interferes materially with job performance or the safety of the employee or others. This law only protects accents related to national origin. Homegrown accents and dialects do not have legal protection.
Foreign accents are not the only accents that are viewed negatively. Accents related to variation in style and pronunciation of native English speech are also subject to negative evaluation and discrimination. Regional varieties of language, especially across geographical spaces, are sometimes referred to as dialects. The Southern "twang" or "drawl" can be scoffed at by some Northerners. Other accents that are often viewed negatively in this country are the many Asian accents and Spanish accents.
Investigations into Aguayo’s and other teachers’ language skills are remnants of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), an act of Congress overhauled during the Bush administration in 2001.NCLB requires all teachers to speak English fluently in order to teach the subject. But when the state determines what’s “fluent,” a problem arises.Evaluating teachers on their accents over their performance is problematic at best and xenophobic at worst. Whether state monitors have been actually been helping students seems to be irrelevant. Rather, they seem to care more about homogeny, exhibiting their prejudices and fear of the “other."
Many Americans can guess a caller’s ethnic background from their first hello on the telephone. However, the inventor of the term “linguistic profiling” [John Baugh] has found in a current study that when a voice sounds African-American or Mexican-American, racial discrimination may follow. In a survey of his own accents, he had hundreds score his disembodied voices and try to identify his background. In those tests, 93 percent identified his “professional English voice” as a white person; His vocal differences in those tests were only in intonation, not in grammar.
Linguistic and cultural pluralism -- and people's right to national identity -- are seriously menaced. Language -- the highest realization of the human spirit, which has often been defined as a 'social contract' -- has become an antisocial factor. From being a means of stimulation, division and organization of work, it has been transformed into an instrument of oppression, exploitation and political, economic, and military imperialism.
One particular form of linguistic discrimination consists of an underestimation of the social value of certain languages and their cultural superstructures, and an overestimation of the language of the privileged people. The process of great languages penetrating the territory of the less great, and even large countries which are linguistically discriminated against, grows from day to day. Uninfluential languages and languages which are discriminated against are assimilated by those languages claiming worldwide hegemony.
A person’s linguistic repertoire is a relatively stable trait; language proficiency often fossilizes at a particular level and progress beyond that level can be very difficult; the ability to learn new languages generally decreases with age, and many other factors such as aptitude or opportunity may conspire to make improving language proficiency near impossible.
As teachers lead second language learners to acquire the communicative power to be able to access to opportunities, a standard view of the languages takes place. The standard view of language may cause to continue existing inequalities and disregards identity and cultural differences.
Differences in language accent, style, conventions, and conversational assumptions may lead to the perception that the other person is not listening, taking serious, or valuing the speaker.
Deborah Cameron noted in 1995 that “linguistic bigotry is among the last publicly expressible prejudices left to members of the Western intelligentsia.” In the same vein, one could point out that linguistic discrimination is among the last legal forms of discrimination left to Western employers.
Baugh’s research shows that not all accents get a neutral or negative reaction from the American public. He has found that many Americans consider people with a British upper-class accent to be more cultured or intelligent than those who used General American. Listeners’ snap judgments about the culture behind the British accent may reflect American’s insecurity about their own English, he says.