It is then pointless to enforce a standard dialect if no standard accent (RP) is to be enforced.. As I have pointed out earlier, enforcing SSE in schools devalues non-standard dialects and their speakers. The assumption that they should master it leads to several problems. Assuming that it can be taught, then this would take time. In the meantime, how can a teacher assess in a manner that doesn’t disadvantage non-standard speakers? Oral examinations would have to cater for the individual based upon the length of time they have been in contact with SSE. Bex & Watts, (1999), argue that:
“Any assessment of spoken English, which gives undue weight to Standard English, is measuring not the school’s effectiveness, not the pupil’s ability, but their social background. ” P. 163. As for bullying, I think that imposing a standard simply gives more reason for it. It draws children’s attentions to the differences in dialect, but not in a positive way. They are being given the message that one way is better and this could create a ‘dialect class system’ in the playground. All the following points have assumed that dialect is something that can be taught.
However, there are many arguments that suggest it cannot, rather it is ‘caught’. Bex & Watts (1999), argue that: “The issue here is that to become a speaker of English is to become a speaker of a clearly marked, socially symbolic dialect: and a long tradition of sociolinguistic research suggests that, whatever the teacher may do in the classroom and whatever the overall implications for assessment, children will not learn a dialect associated with a group with which they do not wish to be associated. ” P. 163. In light of this, are then, all attempts to promote SSE in schools in vain? A person’s dialect is a mark of identity.
I would argue it is arrogant to assume that part of a person’s identity should, let alone can, be changed. I am not disagreeing with the argument that children need to come into contact with SSE, because of the discrimination speakers of non-standard dialect forms experience, but it is something that only the individual can choose to embrace. This leads on to the emotional implications for the child. We must consider the very important issue of self-esteem: All young children must find their own self-worth and sense of place in a community rooted in the languages and dialects of home.
Any attack on young children’s spoken language, no matter how well-intentioned, is a recipe for personal, cognitive and linguistic disaster in the early years. ” Engel, D. & Whitehead, M. (1996), P. 44. This quote is important in highlighting the emotional harm we may be doing in tampering with a child’s language. A child who speaks with a non-standard dialect is obviously going to be confused and insecure when he hears a dialect different to his own. This is not harmful, but arguably enriching since the child will in time assimilate this experience.
But if they are encouraged to speak this way it will, inevitably unnerve the fragile self-concept that they have of themselves. It has been recognised that being taught a new dialect has ‘profound implications’, but what is not discussed is how teachers can address them: “Teaching pupils a new dialect may be confusing when they are learning many other aspects of language use. The profound implications for pupils’ relationships with their families and communities should be recognised. ” Cox, R. (1991), P. 30. I think that the role of the teacher needs more consideration in the light of these implications.
Wyse & Jones, (2001), suggest: “Activities which encourage reflection on language in different contexts are preferable to continual correction. ” P. 200. It is important for teachers to give their pupils access to language conventions that offer advantages in certain social situations, at the same time avoiding any implicit criticism of their own language by any suggestion that this alternative ‘code’ is in some way intrinsically more valuable. The child’s own language must be recognised: “as a motivational and cultural tool for development.
” Wyse & Jones (2001) P. 200. To conclude, at the heart of any decision about what to teach as English in our schools, should be the consideration of what is in the best social, educational and emotional interests of our children. Whilst we must recognise the prejudicial nature of our society with regard to dialect and accent, and allow children access to the code that will help them to fight this if they so choose, we should never impose this code by way of correction, nor hold it up as an example of ‘better’ or ‘correct’ English – it is merely an alternative.
We must recognise that to do so is at best futile because language is ‘caught’ not ‘taught’, and at worst a means of eroding the young child’s fragile self-esteem and sense of self, and an invitation for the child to reject the learning environment as alien. 3 1 Stephanie Howard EDEN 202 The Study of Language Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Social Work section.