CP Editorial: My professor doesn’t even speak English

“To-may-to” or “to-mah-to,” however you say it, it’s time to stop throwing them at professors. Let’s take a second to address ever-present complaints of having a thickly accented teacher.

Statistically, I get it; this is a new experience for most students. According to the University of Missouri’s fact page, 73.5 percent of university enrollment is from Missouri. And according to the Migration Population Institute, only four percent of Missouri’s total population is foreign born, compared to the national average of about 13 percent. So, most MU students are entering college without having experienced much diversity.

On behalf of people everywhere, I’d like to welcome you to the real world.

You signed up for a university whose colleges include mission statements that mention diversity. For example, CAFNR – “Aspires to build a community where diversity is embraced,” College of Engineering – “We strive to promote diversity and inclusiveness in the engineering profession” and The College of Education – “developing effective, responsive scholars … who use theory and research to enhance their work in a global, diverse, and technological society.” Global. Diverse. This means people unlike yourself: people who look different, people who have different opinions and maybe even people with accents.

One of MU’s five core values is “diversity and cultural competence.” That means part of student education is solely devoted to helping learn to navigate a world filled with dissimilar people.

Therefore, a student’s responsibility to a full education is to try their best to understand. Email the professor and ask for clarification (the crazy thing about e-mails is they don’t have accents.) Read the assigned book, pay extra attention in class and form a study group. And go to class, the more time one spends hearing the accent, the more understandable it will become.

No student would ridicule a teacher if they had a lisp or a disability. They wouldn’t claim a professor isn’t qualified to teach a class. They’d learn to adjust, just like people have to do for the rest of their lives – in the real world.

Now, think beyond yourself. My friend, a professor whom we will refer to as Dr. X, learned English by sitting at a café table with a newspaper on the left and English translation dictionary on the right. He sat for hours underlining words he did not understand and translating them until, sentence-by-sentence, he pieced the language together. Professor X sang radio jingles for car companies and grocery stores without knowing the meanings. He did all of this while taking numerous high-level mathematics courses – without knowing the language. He studied and studied until he finally understood some of what his professors were talking about, and could successfully ask for a ticket at the movie theater.

His English improved from there; with hard work and a bit of luck he became a professor. Today, when he teaches a class and kids say it’s “hard,” I want to give them a good swift kick. Not only is he a fantastic teacher, his language skills had to be approved by a board before he ever stepped foot into a classroom.

MU has many opportunities to help you promote diversity and understanding campus-wide. Join forces with programs like the Show Me Respect project by attending their staff meetings or by recognizing a kind person through “Thank a Tiger.” Attend seminars and workshops hosted by the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative, and be a force for acceptance at MU.

The next time you begin to complain about how a professors t’s sound like d’s, stop and think about your full college education. Contemplate what it means to be a student of the world not just a student of a class.

Maria Kalaitzandonakes

About the Author Maria

I’m a CoMo native with a mile-long last name. I’m a sucker for wool socks, classic Coca Cola and afternoon naps. If I had a pet, I’d dub it Pigwidgeon, or maybe Alastor. I’ve stood right in between Asia and Europe, eaten my weight in lamb meat and walked the Great Wall. I’m fluent in Greek and a little wobbly in Spanish. I’ve broken my arm and lost five pairs of glasses. And I say both with an L, as in boLth, like a true Missourian. Before I became a tiger, I was a bruin, at Columbia’s very own Rock Bridge High School. There I got my start in agriculture and journalism. I ran the student newspaper and magazine, learning that I had a love for storytelling. CAFNR is where I call home right now, as an Agricultural Economics and Science and Agricultural Journalism double-major student. Someday I may use this degree for a career in agricultural public policy or foreign agricultural services. But for now, I’m just a freshman with some pretty blurry pipe dreams.