Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More "Wisdom" about Language from Ken Lindblom, Editor of EJ

Question: Why isn’t standard English any more important than any other variety of English?

Answer by Ken Lindblom: “Using Standard English makes it seem as if the formal version of English that we teach in schools is somehow better or more correct than any other version of English. It isn’t.”

Comment: Try telling that to the student who wants to do well on the objective test of edited English in the SAT. Try telling that to the job applicant who makes a blatant error in a letter of application that is shredded because the applicant wrote, “I should have went to practice.” Try telling that to someone who misspelled a word on a job application that was deposited in a shredder. Try telling that to a teacher from the North Country of New York State who used the term “boughten” in a faculty room and the entire faculty roared with laughter in response. Try telling that to people who were embarrassed because they were corrected by someone whom they respected. It hurts. I know, I’ve been there, done that.

Oh, says Lindblom, students just have to know when to use standard English. I say, It is hard to learn standard English. The other varieties of English are part of students’ language habits. Those habits are not easily replaced by Standard English. The hardest task is helping students learn when to use standard English and to be able to apply it.

Yes, other varieties of English exist. Informal and conversational English have their advantages. An informal and conversational style invites readers and audiences to participate. On the other hand the purpose of standard English is precision. Standard English needs to be taught. RayS.  

Title: “Beyond Grammar: The Richness of English Language.” Ken Lindblom, editor of English Journal (March 2011), 10-11.

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