Students should work with, not against professors with different accents


Juan Diaz/Hilltop Views

Students sometimes blame poor grades on not understanding their professor’s accent

As college students, we are all bound to have professors with foreign accents at one point or another. According to a New York Times article from 2011, there were about 115,000 foreign professors working in American higher education institutions.  

It is very common to have a foreign professor, especially at a globally focused university like St. Edward’s. International instructors bring new perspectives and keep students on their toes. It can even be interesting to learn about their career experience from their home countries.

But, sometimes it can be a challenging to understand their accents on top of the already difficult class. Should the professor’s accent be at fault? Of course not.

In my experience, I have seen students absolutely gush over their British professor’s accent, while they complain about instructors from other countries, usually if the professor is brown or black. A professor’s accent should not be used an excuse for subpar grades.

It is reasonable to struggle to understand their accent, but it is important to realize English is their second language and they probably struggle to understand our accents and dialect just as much. They have worked even harder to get their position at St. Edward’s and have been deemed worthy of teaching a course.

It is unfair to the professor for the students to give up on their class before even trying because of their accent when they are working just as hard to understand us. It is downright racist to blame it on the accent of a non-native English speaker.

As students pursuing a higher education, we should be able to empathize with these professors and even help them to a certain extent. We know what it is like to have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and maybe even not have anyone to support us. Foreign professors are working twice as hard to succeed in a country that does not cater to foreigners.

Like with any professor, there are foreign instructors who may not be so good at teaching, but this should not be blamed on their accent alone. Students should make as much as effort to understand a subject being taught be a professor with a thick accent as they would with any other difficult subject.

Talk to the professor during office hours or even before or after class to get to know them and be open-minded rather than going in with a negative attitude.

Before complaining about a professor’s accent, ask yourself if you would be complaining just as much if they were from an English-speaking country. Instead of angrily blaming a failing grade on their accent, ask yourself if you have done everything to help boost it. Go to office hours; if there is a TA talk to them, or even go to tutoring.