Legitimising dialect discrimination

Why is dialect discrimination (unlike sexual or ethnic discrimination) still openly legitimised in the workplace?

Is it? How so?

Is this something you haven’t come across?

So far, only in private. Except you’re referring to my peculiar wool, but I appreciate dedicated criticism.

Will you tell us more?

It’s because people can’t change their race or gender, but they can change their dialect or acquire a second one (or a third or fourth one).

Some dialects are difficult for most people to understand, and they therefore impede a company’s ability to do business. Once I got a call from people at a phone center in rural Arkansas, and I couldn’t understand them more than 50% of the time. Because of this communication problem, they thought I had promised to donate $5 to their organization, but I hadn’t done so. I must have answered “yes” to some question that I hadn’t fully understood but thought I had. For example, they would pronounce “five-dollar commitment” as [fa da mɪ], which virtually no one in the US would understand. Their job was dependent on communication, and they couldn’t communicate.

The same thing happens in the US when they make Spanish-speaking call center workers do double duty and call us Anglophones. Often there’s no problem, because the person speaks accented but clear English. However, some of them have such poor pronunciation that I’ve had to end the call, because I couldn’t understand 30% of what they said. This operator loses money for the company, and it would be correct for the employer to discriminate against this worker in work assignments, etc., until he or she can speak English more clearly.

Also, US employers are responsible for any abuse or harassment that occurs on their premises. If the employer can’t understand what is being said in the workplace, he has no way of monitoring these problems and can’t prevent them. In that case, it would be proper for him to forbid the use of a dialect that is unintelligible to him while his employees are on the job.

With the latter, they can.

Yeah, but let’s remember that it was you who had a problem with understanding our German friend.

Why employ the worker in the first place?

How much does it take to familiarise oneself with the dialect/s of one’s employees?

It’s not possible to change gender. It’s only possible to create artificial genitals.

Yes, because her bad prosody creates a lot of miscues, so she is much harder to understand than the average German until you get used to her. I make a large part of my living listening to Germans speak English, and I almost never have a problem understanding one, so it’s obviously something strange about our friend Bettina’s speech.

I understand American dialects much better than the average American, so if I couldn’t understand those people, virtually no one in my part of the country would. You have to admit that [fa da mɪ] doesn’t sound much like “five dollar commitment”. When I didn’t understand it, I repeated it back to him, and he understood it. When he realized I didn’t understand him, he immediately switched into Southern-accented standard English and said, “You’ll have to excuse me, sir. I’m a little bit country.”

Because she is effective at working with the Spanish-speaking population, and it may be possible to train her to speak English clearly.

It depends on the dialect and how many are involved. It’s not unusual to have three, four or five dialects spoken in the same workplace, and it’s unreasonable to expect the employer to learn them all. It’s also unreasonable to absolve the employees from the obligation of using language that the employer can understand. It assumes that employees speaking a nonstandard dialect are mentally disabled and incapable of learning any form of communication. It’s condescending to them not to obligate them to learn a more general means of communication.

Another thing is that there are some dialects that simply cannot be learned by people outside the group that speaks them. To learn these, the employer would have to move in with one of the families that speak it, sit in school with the children and do a lot of other cumbersome things that would give him entrée into that society. He just won’t have the time or opportunity.

In contrast, all of the nonstandard dialect speakers have been exposed to the standard language all their lives, so they have a better basis for learning that than the employer has for learning their dialect.

You seem to know a lot about this. Have you a secret to share, J?

I guess you’re just perfection, J.

And what has her speech got to do with dialect?

Note the word “familiarise” in my post.

Except on ESL forums.

Do you have an example of “openly legitimised dialect discrimination”?


If you don’t, we’ve live in two very different worlds, Mr P.

In other words, you don’t.

It might be condescending to expect they can’t or do not want to learn such, but in no way is it condescending not to oblige them to learn such.

Asking someone for single examples of something like this means that you’ve never come across such or you want us to believe that such does not happen. Which is it for you, Jamie?

Molly, I’ve been trying hard to follow both your questions and your intentions underlying this thread. What is it?

What’s underlying your question? And what’s your problem with “such”, as used above?

Did you miss this question?

Don’t want to get sidetracked. Elusive quibbling shuns the buns.

Is this untrue?

“People who speak stigmatised dialects such as African American Vernacular English or Southern vernacular English continue to be rejected on the basis of their speech even when their dialects have nothing to do with their performance of job-related tasks and general competence. (Wolfram, W. 1993.)”

Fine, but your question seemed to imply that you have not come across legitimised dialect discrimination in the workplace. Is that true. Have you never come across it?