Language Discrimination: Is it fair?

Language discrimination is when a person is treated differently for the way he or she speaks.  It is not based on a person's appearance, strictly the type of style used while speaking.  This is wrong!  Because of this, people who are discriminated against for the way they speak may find it difficult to get a job.  Some people have even lost their job for the way they speak.  [See the American Civil Liberty Union(ACLU)'s statement on language discrimination.]

However, communication may not be the only barrier for people.  See graph below:

Graph from J. Keith Chick (1990) "The interactional accomplishment of discrimination in South Africa."  In Donal
Carbaugh, ed. Cultural Communication and Intercultural Contact.  Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, p. 243.
While talking to someone who doesn't speak exactly like you do you ever find it difficult to communicate with that person?  Do you feel frustrated, upset, and even angry?  This is not uncommon.  People have different ways of communicating with others that are influenced by where they are from.  A question may be asked but the desired response may not be given because that
person answered the question according to the way he/she understood it.  Yet, the person who asked the question might think that the response was one way of dodging the question.

There are many communication barriers that exist among various races and groups of all sorts which includes ethnic, regional, and socio-economic.  This is related to the way people treat those types of people.  The chart above shows historical factors as being the primary cause for social inequality.  Following the arrows, you can see how each part of the chart is related to one another.  It is interesting to see that if a person has trouble communicating to people living in a particular area how easy it becomes for them to make that person feel lesser when they speak.

Language Discrimination in the Workplace
(Meyer v. Nebraska)
 In 1919, the Nebraska Supreme Court found Robert Meyer guilty for teaching a young student a Bible story in German.  However, the United States Supreme Court rejected this decision on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Related websites:
Language Discrimination in the Consumer Industry
(Kim v. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company)
A Korean-American family sued Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company for its denial of an application related to English-speaking proficiency.  The company apparently has a requirement that applicants for insurance must be English-proficient.  If not, their application is denied.  The case resulted in a settlement.  Northwestern could no longer deny people insurance because they do
not speak English well enough.
Related websites:
  • ACLU Case against Northwestern Mutual Life
  • Judgement in ACLU Case against Northwestern Mutual Life
  • Language Discrimination in Education
    (Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School Children et al.,
    v. Ann Arbor School District)

    The main issue in this case was alleged discrimination against children whose home language was "black English."  The court decided that it was appropriate that the School Board take steps to help the teachers better understand and recognize the language spoken at home by the children.

    Related websites: