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Do international students teach undergrads?

jake6621jake6621 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
edited August 7 in Parents Forum
My son has auditory processing issues, and when he can't understand a speaker, he cannot begin to grasp the content. So we need to avoid schools where international students teach undergrads. Anybody know if that happens at RPI/WPI/A&M?
edited August 7
32 replies
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Replies to: Do international students teach undergrads?

  • jake6621jake6621 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    thanks. can you think of a better way to construct the question?
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6600 replies39 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I hear what you are asking and it's a valid concern, really for all students, and not just with TAs.

    My D goes to Purdue and they have a requirement for solid english communication skills for all instructors (my D is TA/mentoring a course this Fall so went through the interview process). HOWEVER, that is a highly subjective standard. And, so far, the issue for D has been more with professors than TAs. My D's multi variable calc prof was extremely difficult to understand. She was able to watch another prof's lectures on line before her class, do problem sets before hand, and then go to his lecture just to reinforce the material. Her school also seems to also do a good job of pairing international professors with native english speaking TAs. D didn't have any combination where both prof and TA were non native speakers. I would hope that would be the case at all schools but perhaps something to ask.

    I think at any research based university, like the ones on your list, your student is going to run into international professors and grad students. IMO, the important thing to remember is that lecture is not the only place where you can get information and that there are other profs teaching the same courses (especially the big intro courses). Lots of my D's friends went to different lectures than they were assigned or to different TA's office hours. Most schools also have subject specific help rooms, free tutoring, etc.....

    Another useful tool - the rate my professor type sites. After 1st semester freshman year, D looked up all the possible professors and picked her schedule accordingly.

    If your child has a formal diagnosis, you can also talk to the school's disability office to see if they can assist. Your student may get permission to record lectures so they can stop and start the lecture and rewind if they didn't understand something (if they aren't already being recorded).
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  • jake6621jake6621 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    thank you!
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 1779 replies6 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    A friend of mine from my home country is a tenured professor at a local university. I am not sure you will find many colleges where every teaching staff member has only an American accent.
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  • jake6621jake6621 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    I understand the challenge. But I've got to try, or he won't learn
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 29476 replies170 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I agree that your son's issues need to be addressed by the disability office. Some speech patterns might not be strictly native, but still intelligible to him. Likewise there may well be native speakers who because of slang, idiomatic usage, or a regional speech pattern might be unintelligible. My own kid picked up a style of speech (different sentence stress pattern) local to her university that I found nearly impossible to understand.
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  • jake6621jake6621 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    really good thoughts. thank you!
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  • momocarlymomocarly 851 replies7 postsRegistered User Member
    Even at my son's midwest college there are professors and TAs that have accents. I just asked him about this. He said he has had a few professors with accents but nothing too bad but several engineering and higher level math students have complained that they have trouble understanding a couple of professors or TAs. The TAs and LAs (like undergrad TAs) have to go through a class where they work on communication and there isn't much trouble in classes where the pool to select from is large. In higher level specialized classes there may no be as big a selection pool for TAs and many professors have accents of various kinds. I'm not sure you will be able to totally remove this from the mix at any school. Working with the disability office may be the best thing. They may be able to provide notes from the lectures.
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  • jake6621jake6621 6 replies1 postsRegistered User New Member
    thanks very much for asking your son!
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  • VMTVMT 1186 replies16 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    My daughter graduated from WPI. She had some professors who were difficult to understand because of their accents. However, she found office hours to be helpful despite this. Perhaps those professors were easier to understand one on one. I attended RPI and I can guarantee the situation would be the same for your son there as at WPI. I had the same experience at my undergrad school, which was a large state school. Over time, I became comfortable with certain accents and speech patterns.

    You really can’t avoid it. But, you can adjust to it.
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  • stradmomstradmom 4979 replies50 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    A smaller LAC type school will have courses generally taught by professors rather than grad students or TAs. While some (many) of these may be people who speak with an accent, the likelihood is that they will have studied/lived in the US for a longer period than a grad student, and thus, their accent may be easier to understand. In some fields, such as STEM, which attract an international demographic, there is likely to be more diversity in language use/accent. (That being said, I have a friend who teaches in a small LAC and their department includes 50% instructors with accents, although all are sensitive to the issue and many deliberately use teaching techniques such as powerpoint to mitigate any misunderstandings.)

    I'm sensitive to your son's issue, since (with no diagnosis) I remember nothing from my Intro to Philosophy class except for Dr Huang's delightfully relaxing voice. But let me recommend that in this PC world you find a way to phrase the concern in a way that will minimize the inevitable charges of bias that will inevitably be attached to the question.
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  • CreeklandCreekland 5750 replies89 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    This one is going to be tricky - I agree with others that you'll want to start with whether there are disability aids he qualifies for. Definitely don't word it as "foreign" as it isn't that (unless it is, then that's a different issue and one I won't touch).

    I know I'm a Yankee and married a Southerner. Both of us have modified our speech quite a bit, but I still need to "translate" for him in many places up north - esp for things like, "Do you want rice or fries?" as many people can't understand the difference as he speaks it and it definitely makes a difference. For the "other" direction, his dad really has never been able to accurately understand me. Even within our marriage H has to let me know if he means a pin or pen - I swear - those words sound the exact same to me the way he verbalizes them. We have cute family memories how one of our lads grew up with a speech problem, being unable to articulate half the alphabet. Down south no one had any problem understanding him. Up north no one could understand him by words alone. Such is life.
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  • RiversiderRiversider 694 replies76 postsRegistered User Member
    edited August 8
    That’s the reason it’s better to go to small colleges with undergraduate focus and good student: faculty ratio.

    What’s the point of going to a college which gets its name and rating due to grad programs/ doctoral research and undergrads aren’t a priority.
    edited August 8
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77098 replies671 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    https://aschmann.net/AmEng/ has a map and information about English dialects in the North America. Information includes pronunciation features, as well as links to YouTube videos of people speaking various dialects. Note: as the page notes, African American Vernacular English is not shown regionally, but is commonly spoken by African American people in many regions; it is related to Southern dialects.
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  • HPuck35HPuck35 1976 replies15 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I encountered many different accents in college. Some made it a challenge to understand what they were saying. My daughter experienced the same thing at WPI. You figured out how to communicate with people from all different cultures. And it goes much more than just language and accents.

    I also encountered the same variety of cultures, accents, etc. in my professional life. So the experience in college and learning to more than cope but thrive in those situations is an important skill to learn.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77098 replies671 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 8
    Riversider wrote: »
    That’s the reason it’s better to go to small colleges with undergraduate focus and good student: faculty ratio.

    What’s the point of going to a college which gets its name and rating due to grad programs/ doctoral research and undergrads aren’t a priority.

    Not sure why going to a college which does not use TAs is necessarily better for this situation. If there are two instructors (faculty and TA) teaching the course, the odds of at least one being understandable in terms of English dialect or accent is better than if there is just one instructor (faculty, no TA). Student / faculty ratio or class size may not have much of an effect, since if the instructor's English dialect or accent is difficult to understand, it does not matter if one is listening in a large lecture hall or a small classroom.
    edited August 8
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  • menloparkmommenloparkmom 12453 replies537 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 8

    @jake6621
    1-Your DS might be better off going to a LAC where classes are taught only by Profs, because there are no graduate students at LAC's.
    2-If you have not already had him treated with AIT- Auditory Integration Therapy-I HIGHLY encourage you to find a trained Audiologist that uses this method to " retrain" the auditory nerve center of the brain asap!
    https://www.aitinstitute.org/ait_research_2015.htm
    My DS also was diagnosed with CAPD, and underwent AIT therapy over the course of a summer. Within 1 year there was a marked improvement in his ability to follow conversations, either in person or on the phone.
    He no longer has ANY problem understanding what others are saying.
    His Audiologist was Judith Paton, who wrote the paper in the Pdf link.
    Can't recommend this method of training ,which was developed in Europe, enough!
    edited August 8
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