Can AI Reduce Discrimination Against Non-native Writers?

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From The Independent Publishing Magazine:

Have you encountered job ads that exclusively seek native speakers? Have you faced rejections due to not being a prolific writer?

As a non-native writer, you may have great thoughts, stories, or research to share, but your writing style and quality may not always measure up to those of native writers. This often results in discrimination and prejudice. And, this bias is not just limited to non-native speakers but also extends to native speakers from BIPOC communities, who face constant scrutiny.

Anecdotes from exophonic writers – the term for those who write in a language that isn’t their mother tongue – residing in countries like the US, Canada, and the UK suggest that non-native writers are at a disadvantage when applying for jobs or submitting their work, leaving little to no chance for those who have never been to Western countries.

While linguistic discrimination is a common problem, it is understandable that editors from reputed publications may not have the bandwidth to edit and publish articles that are not well-comprehended, as doing so may require additional editing time and resources.

This results in non-native writers constantly facing rejection across various genres, from artwork to scientific research, solely on the basis of linguistic proficiency. However, the emergence of AI tools like ChatGPT has revolutionized the writing industry and levelled the playing field for all writers. It’s time to step up!

Understanding Discrimination and the Barrier to Entry

Before discussing ways for non-native writers to improve their writing skills to meet “native standards,” it is important to address the issue of discrimination and prejudice that create a barrier to entry that doesn’t automatically get eradicated by a better quality of writing. This section will present anecdotes from real writers and research papers as evidence.

Nilofar Shidmehr, a well-known writer, a PhD holder, and a faculty member at Douglas College in Canada, has experienced discrimination based on her background as a non-native English speaker. “In Canada, I have sometimes felt that others consider me less capable of becoming an ‘English’ writer, and it saddens me to a great degree,” she says.

Rachel Werner, a BIPOC author and the founder of The Little Book Project WI, speaks about the bias against marginalized communities. “It’s no secret that the publishing industry has numerous issues in terms of excluding individuals from marginalized communities. This is true not only for who gets hired as writers and editors but also for the sort of content which repeatedly gets published,” she says. Rachel also talks about the snide remarks she would constantly get. “It was obvious I was less respected than several of my co-workers. Oftentimes, demeaning remarks would be attributed to my ‘lack of experience’ working in glossy editorial and my age.”

Paula Cheung, a self-published author with a Master’s degree from the UK who currently resides in Canada, shares her experience of feeling bias and wanting to give up.

I didn’t think that publications or editors would ever be biased toward BIPOC writers, but at the back of my head, I did. I felt it had something to do with my Asian surname, so I adopted a pen name. The discrimination made me question myself as a writer. A few times, I was on the verge of giving up until I realized that writing was, in fact, my true passion.

Aside from anecdotal examples, research has well-documented discrimination against non-native speakers in both speech and text.

  • People with accents are often perceived with skepticism and considered to be less reliable. And, this is the case for both non-native speakers and native BIPOC speakers who are given less credibility because of their accents.
  • Publishing may require more effort from non-native writers.
  • Research papers and academic journals are often rejected because of poor linguistic skills.
  • The requirement for ‘Native English’ in job ads, while unlawful, is still very much prevalent.

In conclusion, discrimination against non-native speakers and writers is a well-documented issue, and the steps to address it through legal means can be discussed another day. While discrimination stemming from prejudices cannot be helped, we can still take steps to mitigate discrimination against ‘inferior’ writing skills by identifying the main challenges and using language processing AI to improve quality.

Link to the rest at The Independent Publishing Magazine

6 thoughts on “Can AI Reduce Discrimination Against Non-native Writers?”

  1. Aside from anecdotal examples, research has well-documented discrimination against non-native speakers in both speech and text

    Research also has well-documented discrimination against books that nobody wants to buy.

  2. This results in non-native writers constantly facing rejection across various genres, from artwork to scientific research, solely on the basis of linguistic proficiency.

    Yes. And I have heard of aspiring lifeguards facing rejection solely on the basis of swimming proficiency.

    • Hi Elliot,

      I wrote this article. I understand your point but are you aware that many scientific research papers get rejected because of linguistic proficiency?

      Do you think its fair to judge a research paper based on linguistic skills? I recommend reading the entire article on TIPM. The goal is to not promote inferior writing but to assist writers from marginalized background with AI.

      • It’s fair to judge any piece of writing based on linguistic proficiency displayed. The writing stands on its own merits. It doesn’t matter what the background of the writer is. If AI can enhance proficiency, wonderful. I suspect it can help both native speakers and non-native speakers.

    • Well, it’s not writing skill that is the real bottleneck. (Though what most of the academic refugees consider good writing and what the market expects rarely intersect.)

      The real problem is cultural.
      To be blunt, the monoculture exported by these writers is, to be polite, not shared by the vast majority of the market. In this, the publisher’s dollar focused priorities cannot be faulted. They are in the business of making money, not cultural revolution.

      (Something Anheuser Busch forgot about to the tune of $5B and counting. You can’t badmouth “frat boy culture” when it is that same fratboy culture that is keeping your “dishwater that self identifies as beer” business afloat.)

      There is a market for their cultural product, to be clear, just as there is a market for xxx studies bookstores (or more commonly, shelf) but it is not a market to the scale that the corporate publishers can make a dime out of. Theirs’ is a bulk business. If they want to get their “voices” out they shouldn’t expect big upfront payments but instead do it themselves and go Indie. (In fact, one of the last Data Guy public reports found that the bulk of black urban literature had in fact gone Indie. No fools them.)

      To be blunter, minority views and voices are exactly *that*: minority.

      You can’t make Patterson-level money peddling “toxic xxxx” and “woe is me coming of age stories” that appeal to people looking for an escape from the mundane world they’re stuck in. It is no accident that the bulk of the money in trade publishing (outside of the regular celebrity train crash of political influence buying title) are romance, thrillers, mystery, and SF&F. In that order, more or less. Everything else is niche.

      These people need to get out of their Air Conditioned safe zone monoculture bubbles and smell the weeds out in the real world. The money lies not with the 6% or 5% extremes but with the 89% stuck in the middle of the warring camps. They’re “not looking to change the world but to escape it.”

      (I really need to copyright that phrase. 😉 )

      They are a niche within the niche of LitFic, which itself is barely profitable, so whine as they will, they’re not going to make the money they feel entitled to until they offer up content the 89% will willingly pay for. Which in the age of video streaming and gaming subscriptions, to say nothing of inflation and urban decay, is an ever shrinking pool.

      (Yes, it’s 1975 again. Cable TV and Arcades have evolved and now the single biggest creative sector in the world–$400B by 2027– is games. Look at the current hot movie today. 80’s nostalgia + family focused escapism = 9 figure *global* box office. And Netflix and Amazon not so quietly setting up gaming studios.)

      It looks like Strauss and Howe Generations theory has legs and american cultural history *is* cyclical.,events%20are%20associated%20with%20recurring%20generational%20personas%20%28archetypes%29.

      Cold comfort, given what happened in past times of leadership failure.

      • Which, arguably, is one of the reasons why the people writing these books freak out when parents start challenging their placement in libraries and school curricula–those sales are the bulk of their revenue, because no one else is buying them by choice.

        For example, I remember seeing a graph for a “banned” book (I can’t remember the name) that showed its sales over time. When word got out about the “ban,” it experienced a spike in sales. By which I mean, it sold a bit more than a thousand copies a week for two or three weeks, then plummeted back to selling maybe half a dozen copies per week. Nationwide.

        I suspect that numbers like that are pretty standard, minus the spike. And if libraries and schools start backing off from purchasing such books, those numbers will only get worse.

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