Please Note: The following article is the writer’s opinion.
Linguistic discrimination, also called glottophobia, linguicism and languagism is unfair treatment which is based on use of language and characteristics of speech, size of vocabulary (whether the speaker uses complex and varied words), modality and syntax. Language discrimination is the prejudice against a person or people because of their native language or their inability to speak an alien language fluently. Based on a difference in use of language, a person may automatically form judgments about another person’s wealth, education, social status, character or other traits which may lead to discrimination.
Accent bias / discrimination refers to the unequal treatment experienced by individuals by virtue of the oddness of the quality of voice and pronunciation. It is the unjustified discrimination against workers who speak English with an accent. It occurs when negative attitudes toward or prejudice against certain accents creates barriers in the social, education and employment sector.
Historically, language has been used as an excuse for discrimination and many tongues have been belittled, abused, prohibited and even banned. There have been many instances where countries have tried to impose languages on the conquered lands, though hardly ever have they been able to wipe out the conquerors completely.
Linguistic discrimination affects people in many ways. Immigrant children face prejudice at school because of their accents. When it comes to jobs, not everyone will get an equal opportunity. People, especially immigrants, are sometimes discriminated against for both their mother tongue and ethnic origin. It also needs to be noted that promoting one vernacular language and ignoring the other will hinder or halt language development.
Language discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently because of his / her native language or other characteristics of his / her language skills. It can be noted that speakers with certain accents may experience prejudice. For example, some accents are considered more prestigious than others depending on the cultural context. Also, certain accents hold more prestige in some societies over other accents. Many families that suffered from linguistic discrimination were discouraged or prohibited from speaking their first language which resulted in children not being taught their native languages.
Employers may require employees to converse in English to the level required by a particular job but they must avoid broad “English-only” rules. To avoid discrimination, a requirement for employees to speak only English in the workplace must be supported by valid business reasons. Recruiters may not take accents into consideration unless they interfere with work. The fact that other workers may feel uncomfortable being around workers who speak languages other than English also does not justify an English-only rule. Language discrimination can be a form of national origin discrimination. Applicants and workers must be treated fairly when it comes to the languages one speaks.
People are harassed because of the constant ridicule and criticism from the locals regarding language skills. They are subjected to bullying, cruel treatment and derogatory comments from those who tend to look down upon them possessing limited knowledge and language accent.
We can help stop language discrimination by acknowledging that all of us have accents, using people-first language, avoiding gender assumptions, using gender-inclusive language, using an augmented writing tool, creating a “discriminatory language in the workplace policy”, using non-offensive language, adapting one’s vocabulary to the listener’s level, by actively taking a stand for people who are ill-treated for their accents, using social media to call out the bullying towards accents. We live in 2021 and it is high time we put an end to linguistic discrimination which can help prevent other kinds of discrimination. We need to make the world a better and equal place for our children and for generations to come.