BLOG/WORDS | screw your language elitism

Screenshot from Melissa A. Fabello’s article “Why Grammar Snobbery Has No Place in the Movement” on Everyday Feminism

hold on before you call out someone on how they phrased something or laugh about their accent. your language snobbery is oppressive and discriminating, so please stop.

it is no secret that i hate the pompous language academia is so fond of using. however, what i want to address in this article is something a bit different, way more common (as in happening to common people, every day, everywhere), and way less bougie. nevertheless, it is equally oppressive and, fancy words aside, stupid.

now this problem is something i’ve noticed both amongst English and Czech speaking folks. and while it for sure happens all across our society, i wanna focus on when it shows up in queer and/or leftist activist community. what the hell am i talking about?

some sort of language/grammar discrimination. you might have noticed it already. it is my native-English-speaking friend who works as an editor and complains when articles aren’t written by other native speakers because he can simply “tell it wasn’t a native speaker.” it is my super activist leftist friends, otherwise incredibly open-minded and accepting, who get into Facebook comment fights almost daily and often call out their opponent’s grammar mistakes. it is native speakers rolling their eyes when someone tries to hold a conversation in a language that’s their second or third or whatever and stutters or makes grammar mistakes or just has a strong accent. it is anyone who has ever dismissed someone’s opinions for how it was said/written. it is anyone laughing at someone else’s accent, or grammar, or just the way of speaking.

focusing on the form instead of on the message is a) plain stupid, b) an upright refusal to listen to those who aren’t privileged enough. because, surprise surprise, language skills are often very closely tied to class, as class not only gives access to education, it also means being surrounded by people with certain language assets, it determines your learning abilities,… class has to do with a lot of stuff, and often sets what your future life will be from the day you are born. which is why it always outrages me to see queer/leftist people call someone out on their language because suddenly their fight against the oppressive class division is gone and they become the oppressor of those less privileged themselves (and yes, i definitely stand behind the opinion that language skills are a form of privilege).

another thing is that people have learning disabilities. people have problems learning languages. people get nervous and make mistakes. should this mean they should keep their mouths shut and let those more skilled do all the talking/story telling? hell no.

by choosing to focus on how something is said instead what is said is cutting oneself off of those most important stories, because those who are the least encouraged to speak are usually those we should listen to the most. and when it comes from a community that actively criticizes the oppressive social hierarchy, it is just damn pathetic.

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