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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton October 8, 2019

Racializing the problem of and solution to foreign accent in business

  • Vijay A. Ramjattan ORCID logo EMAIL logo

Abstract

Given the desire to attract skilled immigrants to English-speaking countries in the Global North, business environments in these nations may see the increased presence of workers who speak English with a foreign accent. While organizations may tout this linguistic diversity, there is a concern that a foreign accent interferes with successful business communication. This apparent issue can result in a lack of employment opportunities for foreign-accented professionals and has also created a rise in private accent reduction programs that seek to improve the employability of these professionals. What is understated or even omitted in the discussion of these trends is the impact of racialization. First, the (lack of) employability of foreign-accented workers may be determined by a set of racial hierarchies in which some bodies are perceived as better for work than others. Furthermore, the notion that simply reducing an accent increases one’s employability ignores racialized power structures that truly prevent the employment of certain immigrants. Through the lens of raciolinguistic ideologies, which look at the intermingling of language and race, this article explores the above issues by arguing that foreign accent discrimination and accent reduction are indeed racialized and thus perpetuate the inequality experienced by immigrant professionals in business.

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Published Online: 2019-10-08
Published in Print: 2022-07-26

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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