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Spanish Professor Considers Failing Student Who Refuses To Adhere To Class-Specific Dialect

Kenny Eliason / Unsplash

When do you draw the line in how technically accurate you need something to be? Maybe at the university level, things should have a higher bar to clear?

Redditor Bluehousebluesky is asking themselves that very question. The original poster (OP) has a student that’s not doing things the ‘official’ way.

While the student isn’t technically accurate, OP isn’t sure if they’re doing enough to warrant a drop in their grade.

To find out what the right option is, OP asks “Would I Be the A**hole” (WIBTA) on the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit.

OP has to ask:

“WIBTA if I failed my student because she speaks with different dialect than I teach (language degree)?”

But what would cause them to give the student a bad grade?

“We are having exams coming up and I have a huge moral dilemma. I am a lecturer at a university and one of the subjects I teach is related to phonology and pronunciation.”

“We teach our students Castillan Spanish. This year, I have a first year student who refuses to follow pronunciation that is being taught.”

“She (Ava, obviously a fake name) uses a different dialect, very distinct one with a lot of very different sounds, aspirated consonant, etc. However, the dialect is very much understandable, and she uses correct grammar, etc.”

“Admittedly, she has excellent pronunciation, much better than we would expect from our 3rd year students but it’s not something we teach.”

“I have asked her before to try and adhere to the pronunciation guide we teach them but she said that she learned it watching TV and picked up the accent that way and it comes naturally to her and if she tried to change it, she wouldn’t be nearly as fluent in her speech as she is now.”

“Technically, she isn’t doing anything wrong by using a different dialect, she’s very good at it and she’s one of our top students but I don’t think we should make exceptions as other students, who are not as good, will then expect the same leeway. Especially that I believe that her stubbornness and refusal to even try is disrespectful to lecturers and may come across as if she’s feeling that she’s better than others and rules don’t apply to her.”

“Buuut, course requirements don’t have specific dialect listed.”

“We have oral exams coming up soon and I am considering failing her if she doesn’t use dialect that is taught. I spoke to my colleagues and some of them agree with me but others have said that IWBTA because she’s not making mistakes and shouldn’t be failed for the way she speaks especially that this is how a language is used natively in some countries.”

“But we fail students if they speak with really bad pronunciation so I don’t see why I shouldn’t fail her for speaking with different one. So WIBTA if I failed her?”

OP thinks that Ava should use the proper dialect for the Spanish class they teach, but has pointed out that she does technically speak better than other students.

So is the dialect enough of a reason to fail the student?

On Reddit, the users of the board judged OP for wanting to fail his student over her Spanish dialect by including one of the following in their response:

  • NTA – Not the A**hole
  • YTA – You’re the A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everybody Sucks Here

The people who responded agreed that OP would be wrong. The dialect is not enough of a problem to earn a failing grade.

On top of that, there’s some level of gatekeeping in this mentality, that Castilian Spanish is the “proper” Spanish dialect.

Yes, OP would be TA if they failed their student over something so petty as proper dialect.

“You know damn well you’re the a**hole here. The student has learned through outside resources, rather than just the class. What she has done deserves encouragement and praise, not being failed.”

“If the Castillan pronunciation is school policy, whoever put that in place are a**holes too. If she can communicate properly with Spanish speakers, and it sounds like she can, surely the dialect is less important.”

“YTA, give Ava the grade she deserves.” – Kris_Third_Account

“YWBTA. I could see docking points for pronunciation, but failing her? When everything else is correct?”

“That is a just a straight up asshole move. This honestly comes across as a power play on your part.”

“You can’t make her conform to what you want, so to punish her, you are going to just fail her out right.”

“There has to be a middle ground here, please find it.” – PaganCHICK720

“YTA. I’m a university lecturer of Spanish as well. Castilian Spanish is only spoken in one country (Spain) so any Latin American dialect would be more in tune with what is spoken in the vast majority of the Spanish-speaking world.”

“You would be an elitist and a terrible educator to fail her.” – sadgalnini

“I’m sensing a touch of racism here.”

“Castilian Spanish aka White Spanish versus say a Latin American dialect right? Is this what we’re dealing with?”

“You seem to think that Castilian is ‘better’ and ‘proper’ and that Latin American Spanish is inferior somehow. Quite frankly, the most beautiful spoken Spanish has consistently been found to be Colombian Spanish (so many soap operas from here) and Argentinian Spanish, both of which are from Latin America.”

“Yes, there are white Latinos, but this insistence on Castilian gives ick vibes placing Europe as superior to Latin America. YTA.” – Relevant-Feedback-44


“Your student speaks fluently, her grammar is correct, you just don’t like the regional accent she uses.”

“My French is ‘Parisian French’, because that is the accent I learned. But people in Brittany understand me just fine (even though the Breton accent is very different).”

“I live in the southwest of England, which has its own distinct accent and dialect. But I have no problems being understood in London, or Manchester, or Brighton (and each has their own dialect and accent).”

“You are being a snob. If your student meets the requirements for grammar, vocabulary, fluency, etc, give her the goddamned grade she deserves. Get over yourself.” – Creepy_Radio_3084

Other commenters stopped and asked why OP was even asking to begin with. On one hand, the question seems so petty.

Making a student follow such a stringent rule, one that would result in worse performance, for the sake of some notion of propriety? That doesn’t sound like something that should be important to a university professor.

And on the other hand, is OP just here for permission to do what they clearly want and will end up doing?


“If another student spoke with perfect grammar and was understandable, but pronounced things slightly incorrectly (mixed in with their own accent for example) would they still completely fail, or just get a slightly lower grade? Would you be grading her completely equivalently to this scenario?”

“Also, is there any requirement stated anywhere that they need to speak a specific dialect?” – Razumnyy

“Do you really need Reddit to tell you how to grade? Id be horrified if any class I was paying good money for had to consult Reddit to figure out how to grade me.”

“Is there no way to discuss this with your department chair?”

“Adding judgment: YTA” – thewhiterosequeen

“YTA. I have to ask though, why are you a lecturer in languages at a university if you have don’t understand anything about language?”

“You yourself are unqualified for your job. You need to send a letter of resignation to your university and go to school yourself again, until you learn the basic qualifications for your job. “

“Once you are qualified to be teaching a language, you can try to go into teaching languages again.

“If you do not understand why i am so angry with you. You arrogantly believe that students should not do things correctly, but should do things your way.”

“if they do things correctly, but not your way, you want to punish them and call them disrespectful. Your student is not disrespectful, the only disrespectful person is you.”


“Spanish is a polycentric language and, I hate to break it to you, but Peninsular Spanish dialects aren’t even the most widely spoken.”

“Would you try to justify failing someone for using Australian English in an English oral exam, rather than, say, American English?”

“Get over yourself.”

“You’ve a happy and motivated student in your class.”

“Most teachers would be happy to have her there and would encourage her interest.” – lejosdecasa

“YTA. Are you even serious? She has the technical skills required to pass and you’re just being an elitist asshole.”

“I hope she sees this and reports you to higher ups for even considering it. 20% of Spain itself doesn’t even consider Castillan their native language.”

“Would you fail an Aragonese speaker for the same reasons?” – morituri230

If OP is listening to the commenters, they won’t fail Ava. By their own admission, she’s doing well in class.

If they fail her anyway, Ava should absolutely appeal the decision, since she’s clearly able to complete the class.

Written by Ben Acosta

Ben Acosta is an Arizona-based fiction author and freelance writer. In his free time, he critiques media and acts in local stage productions.