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article imageOp-Ed: How much is your dialect affecting your chances of finding a job?

By Claudio Buttice     Aug 23, 2016 in World
Modern societies strive to reach a level of globalization that gives everyone a fair opportunity of finding employment, regardless of race, sex or language. But is that true that even a simple accent can affect your chances of finding a job?
According to the findings published in a new sociology paper, an accent can heavily affect your life opportunities, especially in some specific fields. To avoid confusion with potential racial issues which may negatively influence the perception of an employer when choosing the right candidate, the author of the paper solely focused on the role of verbal factors in the available literature. People were, in fact, selected for non-customer-facing jobs such as call-center operator, and were solely interviewed via telephone. Disappointingly enough, prejudices are still strong, and English men were still preferred to Mexican-, Chinese- and Indian-accented ones by U.S. managers. Curiously though, British-accented candidates performed even better than native ones who spoke American English. Other experiments showed that American consumers reacted negatively when a product was advertised by readers with a French or Mandarin Accent. U.S. consumers hold expectations about the communication they expect from national business companies. Non-native accent negatively impact their perception of the product and is thus natural that dialect may affect an employer’s decision when choosing the right candidate for a job.
Accent and dialects are often perceived as a synonym of poverty or lack of education and is strictly linked to racism and discrimination. A Stanford research performed by linguistics Professor John Rickford showed that African American youths who moved from a poor neighborhood to one with better economic conditions dropped their African American Vernacular English. Linguistic discrimination is still strong, and while many studies in the last decades have been centered on the effects of lack of English-speaking abilities on multi-cultural workplaces, very few authors focused on the importance of a simple accent in those who already speak a foreign language fluently.
As Professor Rickford explained, language is a socially constructed behavior, and is thus often perceived as part of that subject’s social identity and status. However, a recent study on Spanish-speaking subjects showed that differences in pronunciation are mostly due to factors other than native language or dialect. Exposure to the newer language as well as age and length of residence in the foreign country seemed to be those that mattered more, proving that some of the accent stereotypes that still generate an unhealthy amount of prejudice on our society may be, in fact, just untruthful stereotypes.
Daily exposure to a globalized word where everyone is writing an imperfect English or, even worse, is inappropriately using his own native language is starting to show some effects on the general population. Many accented words that may have a lot of importance in some languages such as French are lost when people write them on social networks or search engines. Curiously enough, though, a recent analysis on the impact of accents on Google showed that users from some countries tend to retain their accents much more than others. So while French users dropped the “ê” in favor of a simple “e” and Spanish ones dropped the “ó” for an “o”, Italian users kept the accented ù in Corfù as well as in many other words. The reasons why this is happening are not clear, but maybe a more “patriotic” attachment to a given culture and language may account for the markedly heavier effect of some dialects on pronunciation. And while we can only speculate on the impact of modern writing has on speaking, another new study showed that regional dialects and accents only affect writing in a relatively minor way. Young people in particular, seem to be more adept than older ones at shifting style between standard and non-standard forms.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Accents, dialects, Work, Employment, Discrimination