More on foreigners who speak English

A Romanian journalism student in Illinois posted a long comment in response to my rants on accents. I decided to upload some of it in case readers don’t click the “comments” link on past posts. You can read a story Luiza wrote about an Illinois Catholic worker here. Her comments on foreign students with accents are below:

I remember the first paper I had to turn in. It was pretty good, I thought. When the professor returned the papers, he couldn’t stop expressing his stupor at how remarkably well I write in English.

Imagine my surprise. Dude, isn’t that part of why they accepted me in the first place? I am after all a journalist, I should be able to express myself in English if I want to activate in the United States, right? “Right,” said the professor. It’s cool for you as a prestigious university to enroll international students. It has a ring to it, I guess. The problem is evaluating your applicants.

There’s no question about science and engineering – Asian students are extremely qualified. But say you’re the English Literature department and the majority of your assistantships involve teaching. Are you going to admit the Chinese student based on his GRE score or are you going to refine your criteria?!

I just don’t buy the idea of undergrads complaining of their TA’s accent. Felix, my German house mate teaches Chemistry to a class of 200. I don’t think he would have gotten the job had he not been worthy of it. His English is excellent except for his deep German accent that kind of makes you say every other minute, “I’m sorry, what?” Yet his students adore him. They come to the parties we throw, they never bail out on his class, his evaluations are fantastic and the next semester Felix will supervise a gang of TAs, mostly American.

[…] One of my sources told me last October, quite matter-of-factly, that he thinks girls with a South-Eastern European accent are cute. It annoyed the daylights out of me each time a source would start the conversation by asking me where am I from (and then having to wait for them to exhibit some knowledge of Romania) and each time a professor would outburst with the joy of seeing how articulate I am.

To my amusement, this sort of stopped. For the past month I’ve been interviewing political activists, campus radicals and underground protesters. Naturally, most of them believe Marx’s Manifesto is the shit (bad capitalism) and they do their best to convince me of it. Towards the end of interviews I usually bring up Romania and have fun with their reactions.

Losing your accent doesn’t mean losing your roots (that’s why they’re roots). Thinking ill thoughts of Romania in its absence is way more serious.

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