Do they speak English in What?


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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34 Responses

  1. Mike Dwyer says:

    I feel like several of my American coworkers would fail this test. My latest favorite is one person who keeps telling me to ‘stroll’ up or down through a report with the wheel on my mouse.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Well, the dynamic that I think is interesting is this:

      Can you fire someone for not speaking English? According to this, the answer is “no”.
      Which means that you can’t fire someone for speaking Spanish.
      Is a worker who only speaks English useful in this situation compared to a worker who is bilingual?
      It seems to me that, in this case, a worker who only speaks English is a lot less useful in this situation.

      Which makes me wonder whether there is a protection for Monolingual English speakers in this law… and it doesn’t seem to me that there necessarily is (though I could see the same logic applying to Monolingual English speakers as to why they can’t be fired… I can also see the argument saying that such would not be “discrimination” as defined by the law).Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        I recall hearing a talk-show caller being outraged that her son was turned down for a retail job because he only spoke English. She seemed to think it was a government regulation rather than a matter of being able to communicate with customers/co-workers.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      That’s a nice metaphor. “Well, I didn’t read the whole report, but I strolled around in it.”Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    I think it would depend on two things (which I suppose are related and might just be one thing)…

    1.) Is English language fluency required to perform the job? If so, it seems no more discriminatory than requiring any other skill.
    2.) Is the exam a fair assessment of the level of fluency required for the job? If so, I see no issue with the exam.

    If you run up against either of these, then I think you’re starting to get into some tricky areas.Report

    • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

      Yeah-huh. Although I’m fairly certain that the amount of fluency required for some jobs could be inflated. Do you need to be fluent in Chinese to work in a Chinese Kitchen? No, but you will be. (at least knowing cooking terms)Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kim says:

        It’s not a violation of the ADA for a taxi company to refuse to hire blind drivers. It would be if they refused to hire a blind dispatcher who could perform all functions of the job if their reason for not is simply because he’s blind.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:


      From the article, the EEOC rep stipulates as much. He says that it’s unlawful discrimination “[w]hen speaking English fluently is not, in fact, required for the safe and effective performance of a job, nor for the successful operation of the employer’s business….”Report

  3. Damon says:

    From the article: “Judicial Watch reported Tuesday that the government is accusing Wisconsin Plastics, Inc. of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on “national origin.” The government argues this includes the “linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.””

    So the EEOC is claiming discrimination based upon a wider intreperatation of “national origin” than previously understood. Ding! Let’s translate national origin–ie where you came from. On this definition, the claim from the gov’t falls apart.

    Now let’s talk about how well or how poorly these guys speak english. Can coworkers talk to these guys and understand them? Can the EEOC lawyers? If not, the lawsuit is bogus. If yes, maybe it is.Report

  4. ScarletNumbers says:

    I don’t understand the title of this post.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    I think Dwyer brings up a good point.

    Native speakers can both purposefully and accidentally say all sorts of things that might be mistakes or might be stylistic choices to suit flights of fancy. The right person can use stroll instead of scroll to great effect.

    A non-native speaker does not have this sort of luxury.Report

  6. krogerfoot says:

    From the article:

    According to this reasoning, foreigners have the right to speak their native language even during work hours at an American company that requires English. . . . The directive came after the EEOC bullied a national healthcare firm to pay nearly half a million dollars to settle a discrimination lawsuit in which the government alleged that Hispanic workers were punished for speaking Spanish.

    I know the article conjures scenarios where monolingual English-speaking customers and employees are mistreated by “foreigners in the workplace,” but how do “English-only workplace” rules work? I work in Japan, and I’m trying to imagine a company telling me that I’m not allowed to use anything but Japanese when I talk with other foreigners in the office, or when in earshot of customers, or whatever.

    The original source says the fired employees, all Hmong and Hispanic, had received satisfactory performance evaluations, but lost their jobs over “10-minute observations that marked them down for their English skills, even though those skills were not needed to perform their jobs.” Should people get fired for communicating in their native language with other native speakers?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to krogerfoot says:

      Should people get fired for communicating in their native language with other native speakers?

      After thinking about it for a while, I came up with a handful of examples where I could see the employer saying “one language, only”. Dealers in Vegas, for example.

      I then realized that those examples were fairly specialized to the point where it’d be useless to try to make a general rule based on them. When you mention “customers”, I suppose I could see a rule that said “don’t speak (non-customer language) in front of the customer… we want them to feel like we’re hiding nothing and something as simple as a short exchange in (non-customer language) can make them feel like they’re marks and we’re working them.”

      That said, on a factory floor? Nothing customer facing? I’d see it as a dumb rule. That said, if a rule was “Speak English”, I would expect that the people breaking the rule most often would be people who were not native English speakers… which is downright trivial. From my perspective, if I were the boss, I’d only care about if the job was getting done within spec. If people wanted to speak Esperanto, hey, bonvolu.

      The main thing I’d worry about is whether it was clearly communicated that this behavior could get a person fired. If it wasn’t? It’s absolute bullshit and intervention is called for.

      If it was? Hrm… I dunno.Report

      • krogerfoot in reply to Jaybird says:

        I think that’s the thing. The circumstances under which “no foreign languages” becomes a reasonable rule are so narrow (CIA operative? Professional bridge player?) that it becomes an exercise in bending over backward. There are already plenty of rules that cover whatever problems speaking another language in the workplace might engender—insubordination, poor customer service, what have you.

        For my part, I was trying to cook up examples that convey what it’s like to belong to a minority-language group, because “Majority language only!” rules make intuitive sense for monolingual speakers. One that I was playing with: Here at Who Dat Cosmetics, employees are expected to speak proper New Orleans English. We’ve told you and told you to drop your r’s and say “make groceries” like an educated citizen, but you constantly huddle up in the breakroom with the other carpetbaggers and chatter in your own regional dialect, which the rest of us can barely understand. Since you can’t follow our rules, we have no choice but to let you go, Mr. Safire.Report

      • Mo in reply to Jaybird says:

        “After thinking about it for a while, I came up with a handful of examples where I could see the employer saying ‘one language, only’. Dealers in Vegas, for example.”

        In fairness, players can’t speak in a foreign language to other players at the table either.Report

      • scott the mediocre in reply to Jaybird says:

        My father, who does labor law (mostly various sorts of discrimination, wrongful termination, and disparate impact stuff), had a case in the 80s defending a company who had an English only on the workfloor policy. Had nothing to do with English proficiency, but the justification for the policy was to make it difficult for bilingual (in the particular case, spanish-language bilingual) employees to make various sorts of fun of monolinguals in mixed environments, as a workplace discipline thing. Presumably if all their supervisors had been bilingual, it wouldn’t have been a problem (the policy was instituted after the first Uncle Tom fully bilingual supervisor was appointed, who made the Man aware of how frequent these goings on were; it was a union shop, so the Man didn’t feel that informal sanctions on the were workable).Report

  7. notme says:

    The DOJ purposely confusing the ability to learn English with a person’s ethnicity. Another sign that our country is in the toilet and circling the drain.Report