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Exploring The Detrimental Effects Of The Belief That Broken English Implies Lack Of Intellect

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June 10, 2021

The idea of intellect in and of itself is a concept worth unpacking, but English is not the measure of someone's ability intelligence. The assumption thereof is harmful.

Many civilizations have existed and thrived in different fields like architecture, engineering, art, and maths without English. With that, the English language does a functional value as a means of communication.

However, the belief that grammatical and speech errors make an individual less than reveals a lot more about the person imposing the judgment. If you find yourself judging someone for their English, it might be an opportune moment to take a look at your privilege.

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Disproportionate Application

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In an interview with "Cosmopolitan," author of the highly anticipated novel "Dial A for Aunties," Jesse Q. Sutanto, detailed an instance in which the difference between her experience with speaking broken Mandarin compared with that of her white friend. 

The author mentions how her counterpart was honored for trying to speak the language while in China. However, the same didn't apply to her. Sutanto recalls how she was criticized for her broken Mandarin, comparing it to reactions she gets in the West for her broken English. 

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The experience brought forth a glaring reality about how people of color especially were treated as less than for not having the perfect command of English.  

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Unfortunately, many people of color are deemed unintelligent and less deserving of respect because of how they speak English. The danger in this is that people feel justified and dehumanizing another over a language.

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The Stigma Of Broken English Marginalizes People

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The idea that intellect is the factor that determines a person's worthiness to dignity and respect is in itself a problem. It implies that people who do not meet the societal standards of what constitutes as "clever" can be justifiably disregarded and disrespected.  

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Judging someone over how they speak a language is unfair to the person. Instead, choose kindness and patience rather than ridiculing and marginalizing someone for trying.

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