Thursday, February 16, 2006

English required? 

One of the questions I get from many people who learn I am a department chair is what do we do about hiring faculty who are non-native English speakers. Most of them are students or alumni -- such as this student -- who have had a bad experience in a class because they had difficulty understanding lectures due to a "thick accent". I confess to being not very sympathetic to their plight. I have learned over the years to quickly tune my ear to accents others have. Working overseas certainly helped with this, but I'm not sure it's necessary to have immersion. It's a survival skill in a world increasingly interconnected. Will employees go to their supervisors and ask that Mahmoud be moved to another department because they cannot understand him? (And how will you tell that complaint apart from one where the employees just don't like Mahmoud because he works hard, or worse, because of his skin color?)