Thursday, November 12, 2009

Accents and Qualifications

I don't know if you guys noticed but I tend to shy away from blogging about the controversial topics affecting the expat community. That doesn't mean I don't have an opinion, it's just that I find myself at odds with those around me.

For one I don't really want to talk about stuff I know nothing about, and two it seems most people wright with fear as their reaction. After I read through several blogs that are mashing up the hot topics I start to believe that my job is doomed and that I am a worthless teacher. I don't know why but there seems to be this mania out there that makes my head spin. Yet I can't pull away from it.

And now there is the new controversial topic of the Education Ministry hiring 100 Indian (From India) English teachers.

Right away the Chosun Bimbo asks:
Are jobs for NESTs from "The Big 7" being outsourced to India?
Which is fine to ask really. Sure this is what it sounds like, perhaps 100 of those jobs would of gone to a NEST from a country other than India.

And then things spiral into that they reported the motive to hire Indian teachers is because the NEST's from the other countries have been deemed mostly as "unqualified."

But if they are going to pay any individual less for teaching English out here than of course this comes as an omen to what may come. Chosun Bimbo says:

Hmmmmm. To be honest that would probably be the best thing for Korea. But the reality is something completely different. The first thing that comes to mind is about wages. Initially I can see English teacher pay taking a nose dive in the face of South Asian teachers willing to teach for considerably less and who are probably more inclined to live together (In smaller apartments) than there American, Canadian, British, Australian, South African and New Zealander counterparts.
My reaction to this is that I can't help but see the person in charge thinking to themselves: If I hire the Indian teacher we won't have to pay as much as hiring the Canadian, America, South African...etc...teacher.

And who knows then maybe local governments will start to think about it this way: Why are we paying these western country kids more money than the Eastern Asian folks? We should revise the pay scale so that it is equal.

Wait I know!!!! Why don't we just pay everyone what they are worth! (But what are we worth?)

As you can see this little bit of news caused a big splash in the expat pond.

And of course many can't help but feel that Indian teachers would logical be undesirable due to their accent.

This gets my head spinning and I hate to sound idealist but this is just wrong and unfair. I believe that teaching EFL effectively has no correlation with one's accent.

Accent is only a marker of one's origins. So folks if you have some time check out this NPR Talk of the Nation radio show. It is about how English travels and what defines our accents.

Here for you are some short quotes:

CONAN: And to begin with, how do you define your accent?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CRYSTAL: I wish I could. Well, you know, an accent reflects where you've been, where you've been brought up. And most people these days don't spend their whole lives in one place. So, whereas once upon a time it was quite easy to almost predict where somebody had come from just by listening to them, you listen to somebody like me and what you hear in this voice you're hearing now is the first 10 years of my life living in Wales - living in Wales it would have been that sort of accent then. And then the next 10 years of my life living in Liverpool, well, everybody knows the Beatles. The Beatles accent, you know. And there was that sort of accent mixed in with it. And then I lived for 20 years down in the south of England and there was a kind of, you know, southern accent that came on top of the other two. And they've all mixed together to produce what you're hearing now.

In the end folks is there any way to think about all this in a positive way? When the government meddles with our job sector does it always have to mean doom?

I wrote on Chris's comment board that perhaps with this influx of Indians it might help a xenophobic Korea change and give non-white people a chance for better treatment.
**Three posts in one day ~ ><**


  1. hi, i'm new to your blog. this is such a refreshing insight from a native english speaker:-). I am not a teacher nor aspire to be one - i am an expat wife in domestic bliss - but i know of several southeast asians struggling to fit in and qualify as english teachers in south korea:-). their 2 foremost concerns: accent and skin color.

  2. It depends on what kind of English is being taught. If you're teaching elementary school or highschool english where grammar and basic vocabulary are key, then an Indian teacher would work out just as well as a teacher from the States or the UK (and actually the Indian teachers grammar is probably better than the average American's).
    However, if the emphasis is on pronunciation and fluency in conversation, that is when Koreans really care about the accent. They don't want to learn to mimic a "strange" English accent. Is is fair to Pinoys or Indians or HK Chinese? No but that's the marketplace wants in South Korea.
    They want to learn "standard" English from countries where people live, breath, and dream in English 24/7.

  3. Hi,
    I'm really all for it. Lord knows that I've benefited greatly from the Korean desire to learn from "westerners" (read Caucasians from major English-speaking countries), but this is not a healthy relationship with the English language nor those being imported to teach it.

    The reality for most ELLs in Korea is that they are more likely to speak with non-native English speakers (NNESTs) than NESTs in their lives/careers. There is great value to introducing learners to a variety of Englishes (as in World Englishes) in terms of listening comprehension and communication strategies.

    If this does take off, the effects will be dramatic on the English teaching profession (and workers) in Korea. Salaries will drop dramatically and qualification requirements will shoot up. The field will face a giant shift. Alas, it probably won't take off too much.

    The most likely places that Indian and Philippine teachers will be welcomed are areas in Korea that are currently under served. Rural areas throughout the middle and southwest of the country in dire need for English educators. These locations are experimenting with many new models, including video conferencing, and would likely welcome these teachers, even at current pay ranges.


  4. Hi i have been reading your blog for a while and this is the first time i have decided to leave a comment. I personally think its a good idea , but that might be because im of south asian origin but born and raised in the uk. If the teacher has the qualifications and is able to teach a class i dont see why their accent should be a problem, not all english speaking countries have the exact same accent. It seems like the only reason some of the teachers are opposed to this is because they feel their own jobs are at risk or maybe they might have to take a pay cut. I would hate to think that if i ever applied for a teaching job in Korea i might not be given the same chance as other British teachers just beacuse i have a south asian name and brown skin. ( I love your blog btw i read it every week)

  5. thanks for the thoughtful messages everyone and fan love ^^

    This topic certainly is one to think about and consider all the angles. I sincerely feel that Indian people should be included in the job pool but should be paid and treated along the same lines as non Indian teachers.

  6. Yes the rural areas need someone to help with English. If I weren't attached to big city advantages than I would have loved to work in a rural area and benefit from the quietude and serenity. But I need to be close to a major hospital and well I have a bf who lives in Seoul.

    It will be interesting to see how this affects our teaching sector as time progresses.


Leave Your Thoughts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...