I know a thing or two about the English language. I have published two books in it and written a third. For eight years I was a regular commentator on NPR's "All Things Considered." As a journalist, my articles have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines and hundreds of websites. My short stories and essays are anthologized and taught widely. I went to Berkeley and Stanford. I've been a subject of a PBS documentary and lectured at Ivy League schools.
But I still have an accent.
That's because I came to the U.S. at the age of 11 at the end of the Vietnam War, and though I speak English fluently, I cannot fully shave my Vietnamese accent from my American tongue. Sometimes my "clue" can sound a bit like your "glue," and other times, when stressed, my "bitch" sounds like your "peach." Otherwise, I am as American as salsa and sweet-and-sour sauce.
I'm telling you this because despite my credentials, I may not qualify to teach English to immigrant kids -- kids like my younger self -- under current Arizona rules. Arizona has decided that it's unacceptable to have teachers whose spoken English is deemed to be heavily accented or ungrammatical, even though the latter has little to do with the former.
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Andrew Q. Lam is an editor for New America Media and the author of two books: Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora and East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.
By the way, Gina Misiroglu of Red Room put me in touch with the AOL people, which is one of the great ways in which she's bringing traffic to Red Room and getting attention for Red Room's authors.