Language in Society


“She does have an accent but…”: Race and language ideology in students' evaluations of mathematics instructors on

Nicholas Close Subtirelu

Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 4099, Atlanta, GA 30302-4099, USA


Nonnative English speakers (NNESs) who teach at English-medium institutions in the United States (US) have frequently been the subject of student complaints. Research into language ideologies concerning NNESs in the US suggests that such complaints can be understood as manifestations of a broader project of social exclusion operating, in part, through the ideological construction of the NNES as incomprehensible Other. The present study explores the extent to which such ideological presuppositions and exaggerative performances are observable in students' evaluations of ‘Asian’ mathematics instructors on the website (RMP). A mixed methodological approach combining statistical analysis of numeric RMP ratings, quantitative corpus linguistic techniques, and critical discourse analysis was employed. Findings confirm the presence of disadvantages related to ‘Asian’ instructors' race and language. However, RMP users' discourse is shown to be less overtly discriminatory and instead to reproduce dominant language ideology in subtle, previously undescribed ways.(Student evaluations, higher education, university teaching, nonnative speakers, second language users, ethnicity, critical discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, formulaic language)*

(Received February 23 2014)

(Revised June 09 2014)

(Accepted July 13 2014)

(Reviewed July 19 2014)


*  I would like to thank Stephanie Lindemann and Ute Römer for their guidance on this project. I would also like to extend my gratitude to my colleagues who participated in a discussion of, and contributed helpful feedback on, an earlier version of this manuscript during a meeting of the Critical Approaches to Language and Literacy research group at Georgia State University: Kris Acheson-Clair, Sarah Goodwin, Donna McRae, Nicole Pettitt, Paco Barron Serrano, and Stephen Skalicky. Finally, I would like to thank Language in Society editor Jenny Cheshire and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the article. All remaining errors are my own.