Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Standard English

Question: What is Standard English and how can students use it when they need it?

Answer/Quote: “Once students begin to understand that Standard English is one language among many, we can help them access their multiple voices—the one they use on the basketball court, the one they use in speech and debate, the one the use at the kitchen table, and the ones they use in their writing.” P. 17.

Comment: The language used on the basketball courts I frequented as a youth could never be repeated in polite company.

The languages used on basketball courts and around the kitchen table will be used regardless of how much English teachers drill on standard English. The language in speech and debate and in writing, on the other hand, should come as close as possible to Standard English. It’s the language of academia, the language of textbooks.

I think a greater problem in switching languages according to social needs is helping students develop an understanding of Standard English so that they are able to use it when it’s called for. The closer people are to informal speech and writing, the farther they are from Standard English.

Students are used to speaking “informally” on the basketball court and around the kitchen table. No amount of drilling on correct grammar will eliminate that kind of language in those situations. What’s harder is enabling students to shift into standard English when they need it—speaking in public writing in academic situations, job interviews, etc. Throwing a grammar book at informal English will not teach students how to use Standard English when they need it.

Previously in this blog, English Updates, I have defined what I mean by informal, conversational language as opposed to Standard English. I have also told how I helped students switch to Standard English through practicing their writing in ten-minute essays. Should my readers be interested in my ideas on how to help students develop the skill of using Standard English when they need it, check out my first five blogs –the ones at the bottom of the list—in March of 2011, the ones labeled “Practicing Writing.” RayS.

Title: “Finding Voice: Learning about Language and Power.” Linda Christensen. Voices from the Middle (March 2011), 9-17.

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