WEATHER »

Watch Your Speech, Teech

Is a Chi-caga Accent Okay?


ON THE ATTACK: I see where Arizona has ratcheted up its war on 30 percent of its population.

Not content with legalizing racial profiling and banning ethnic studies, the state has ordered school districts to remove teachers who speak English with a very heavy accent or whose speech is ungrammatical.

Arizona’s education department has sent people into schools to audit teachers on pronunciation, correct grammar, and good writing, according to the Wall Street Journal. If the teachers fail the test or fail to improve, they can be fired or reassigned. (Where, one wonders?)

Barney Brantingham

But in the “educators’” zeal to crack down on Spanish-speaking teachers not pronouncing the Queen’s English perfectly while teaching English as a second language, they missed a research study. The Journal of Psycholinguistic Research published a study finding that students are better at learning from a teacher who speaks in the same accent as they do.

“About 150,000 of Arizona’s 1.2-million public-school students are classified as English Language Learners,” the Wall Street Journal said.

If I happened to be teaching in Arizona (could be if I hadn’t stumbled into the newspaper racket), I suppose I could be challenged, too. Chicago schools did little to improve my linguistic skills. (“Wanna sangwish?”) Some say they detect a Chi-caga accent in my speech. And I’m at a loss when it comes to certain grammatical rules. (Is it lay or lie? Who or whom?)

My spelling is shaky. (Thank you, Spell Check.) Still, I survived five years at the University of Illinois and more than a half-century writing for newspapers without being fired.

But I suspect that Arizona’s heavy-accent rule wouldn’t be aimed at Anglo Me, there in the “show me your papers” state. The best teacher I ever knew spoke with a strong Spanish accent and successfully taught years of students at Dos Pueblos High. I’m sure she wouldn’t have survived Arizona’s witch hunt.

BIRTHER BLATHER BACKDOWN: Meanwhile, the Arizona Senate has dropped that Make-Obama-Show-His-Birth-Certificate bill I wrote about last week. The House okayed it, but it became too much of a hot potato after every Democrat opposed it, along with a few Republicans. Besides, the proposal to force presidential candidates to prove they were born in the U.S.A. before they would be placed on the state’s ballot took its licks in Arizona Republic’s Web postings.

“Every major news organization of every persuasion, every legitimate political party, every court, every state and nearly every rational politician has said he has a valid U.S. birth certificate and is a U.S. citizen,” one reader wrote. “In fact CNN even showed the BC, complete with emboss and counter signatures. So why do you keep bringing this up?” he scolded a birther poster.

Chimed in another Arizonan, “It is people like you who make the rest of the country think that all of us who live here are hillbilly, uneducated rednecks. Please stop. You’re embarrassing us.”

WHERE’S BARRY’S BC? Writes Santa Barbara bookseller Mahri Kerley, “To make all of this birther baloney more interesting, I can’t help but chuckle over the fact that Arizona hasn’t even been a state for a hundred years. (They changed from territory to state in 1912.) I remember when Barry Goldwater was running for president, it was suggested that he wasn’t eligible because he was born in Phoenix in 1909, three years before Arizona became a state.”

ELEGANCE ON WHEELS: I’ve never seen more beautiful cars than those I worshipped at the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard last weekend. Scores of elegant French and other luxury sports cars of yesteryear. To me the most magnificent was the 1939 Delahaye, all graceful feminine curves and loveliness on a turning pedestal. For reservations, call 385-5400, mullinautomotivemuseum.com. Admission: $10.

EL ENCANTO STORY: Kerin Friden, whose late husband, Eric, had owned El Encanto Hotel for 26 years at the time of his death in 2003, is writing a book about its history. If you’d like to share your memories and photos, contact kfriden@hotmail.com or 698-2716. Now owned by Orient-Express, the resort is closed pending resumption of its renovation project.

GOV APPOINTS? “I agree with your recent story about the folly of electing civil servants,” writes Bob Gerity. “Even more ludicrous is putting the election of judges and DAs in our hands. What do we know about their qualifications? I feel that those positions should be appointed by the governor and approved by a bipartisan legal service committee.”

Thanks, Bob, but we’re in the midst of a DA’s race. Would we want Gov. Arnold to take away our (ahem) fun?

FIRE THE STAFF: Frank Frost points out that Eric Korevaar, a Democrat, is in the race to become California’s next lieutenant governor, “whose duties, Mark Twain once said, consisted of getting up every morning and inquiring as to the health of the governor.” (The Lt. Gov. takes over in case the Gov. dies or is otherwise out of the picture, and in the meantime has other odd jobs.)

“An honest man, Korevaar tells us that the lieutenant governor has a staff of 30 — did we know that? — and promises to get rid of them all at a savings of $10 million during his term of office,” Frost said. “He’s got my vote.”

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.



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