Is An Accent An Excuse For No Job?

Linda Tang made the long journey from China to New Zealand in hope it would offer her an opportunity to establish a life in a democratic nation which had a high standard of living. Ms. Tang holds a B.A. in English and is a former English lecturer at a university in China. She did not expect any problems in the nursing program and passed her courses. However, Ms. Tang was failed in her final year because it was claimed her accent would prevent patients from understanding her and might result in a fatal outcome. According to Ms. Tang, “to say my English is not good enough is just an excuse. I feel that what they have done is discriminatory, especially to the Chinese because we are penalized not for our lack of knowledge or ability, but simply because of how we talk.”

Ms. Tang scored 6.5 on the international English language Testing System to qualify which was the level required to enter the nursing program. She argues that while not being able to speak English might cause some problems, native born New Zelanders do not speak foreign languages which would damage their ability to communicate with foreign speaking patients.

Many years ago I applied for a teaching position in my native New York City and was told they would not pass anyone who spoke with a New York City accent so I faked it. Actually, this issue is complex. If a nurse misunderstands what the doctor says or is unable to communicate with a patient the outcome could be disastrous. On the other hand, are there sufficient numbers of Chinese speaking people in a hospital with whom she could communicate as she continues working on her English proficiency?

Related Posts

  • Anonymous

    Are there enough Chinese there for her to communicate with until she learns? Are you kidding? That’s discrimination itself. Others are forced to do these non-fluents’ jobs, she gets out of having to do her job, etc.

    NYC is a perfect example of what not to do. Chinese street signs in Chinatown. Street signs…as in government paid. We have pandered too long to everyone that we as a country no longer have an identity. It’s not a melting pot any longer. Diversity is the worst thing. It means differences. There is no longer a common ground here & language is the most important common ground. Will you shop & live in an area where all the signs are in Russian or Italian or German?

  • Fred Stopsky

    Unfortunately, you are not familiar with American history. In my childhood in the thirties, one could walk for miles in Little Italy in the Bronx and hear peoples speaking Italian, in my neighborhood, Yiddish was as common as English, there were areas in New York where people spoke Polish or German. Today, it is exactly the same as in the past. You are living in a fantasy world.

  • Anonymous

    It’s the same, really? I never had to press 2 for Italian. I didn’t have to find the English on packages, signs, etc. I didn’t have to go through 15 German channels on the TV before finding an English channel. People are no longer encouraged to become Americans, but they are encouraged to keep their ethnic identities & expect everyone else to make up for it.

  • Fred Stopsky

    I live in the midwest. I have no idea what you mean by having to go through 15 German channels. And, St. Louis has a large German population. Exactly, where do you live in America?