Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Standard English as One of Many Dialects

Question: How can I help students understand that Standard English is one of many appropriate choices for effective communication?

Answer/Quote: “As a teacher at a community college in Appalachia, I am often shocked by composition students who have come to accept what they have learned in previous academic settings: that their native dialects make them ‘sound stupid.’ I want my students to recognize standard English as another dialect that is suitable in particular situations—to avoid mistaking Standard English as inherently ‘correct’ English, or as the only option for effective communication. To determine the best language options, students need to pay close attention to the language needs of the situation at hand, or consider why one particular dialect might be more useful than another in a particular setting.” P. 81.

The author has students record in journals the types of language in situations that they experience during the day, i.e., the language at home, the language at work, etc. “This extended prewriting leads into a formal essay in which students describe two settings in which they spend a great deal of time, along with specific language situations they might encounter at each.” P 81.

 “Ultimately, students can come to understand that their local dialects are not inferior and in fact work better for communicating in certain situations while standardized dialect is often more likely to facilitate effective communication across professional and nonlocal audiences or settings.” P. 82.

 Comment: Interesting technique for analyzing the language of different social settings and the appropriateness of Standard English for specific situations and the appropriateness of other dialects for certain other situations. In general, the more students write informally, the more their language reflects the way they speak. RayS.

Title: “Dialect and Language Analysis Assignment.” Amanda Hayes. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (September 2011), 81-82.

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