Let's Not Stigmatize Improper English

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by HerHubby, Nov 30, 2006.

  1. HerHubby

    HerHubby The SF Poet Laureate
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    The following letter, which appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, was awarded the "Letter of the Day" award which means the young lady who wrote it gets invited to the annual banquet which they hold for Letter of the Day Writers each year. She gets a free lunch and listens to speakers in other words. Anyway, despite it having nothing to do with sex, I thought that she made an interesting point.



    Letters to the Editor
    Richmond Times-Dispatch
    Wednesday, November 29, 2006


    Let's Not Stigmatize 'Improper' English
    Editor, Times-Dispatch: I am a junior at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA), enrolled in an English linguistics class. During the course of this semester I have learned that several things we, as English speakers, take as gospel truth are in fact erroneous.
    Teachers in our nation's schools have drilled into our heads the "proper" usage of English. What they fail to recognize is that they are not teaching ironclad rules, but the same erroneous fallacies they were taught themselves. If this cycle of teaching language incorrectly continues, then our children will learn that discriminating against other people based on the way they talk is perfectly acceptable.

    Linguistically, all of the dialects of a spoken language are equal, whether the dialect in question is mainstream (such as the kind of English that teachers are teaching their students) or whether it is stigmatized (as has been my experience). Furthermore, variation in spoken language is to be encouraged; it is the rule, rather than the exception. These principles are known as the "linguistic facts of life."

    In classrooms, teachers correct students who speak with a vernacular accent, telling them that they are not speaking standard English. This makes me wonder: If I were to ask these teachers to define standard English, what would they tell me? Their answer would probably be something along the lines of "proper English" -- by which they would mean proper grammar. Look up the definition of "standard English." It refers to it as "the spoken and written language of educated people." No mention is made of people who may not be educated, but can still speak their own version of standard English.

    I find it outrageous that some teachers expect their students to simply change their accents. I am not sure that they are aware that children's language patterns are set by the age of 3. I urge the nation's educators to think about this: If everyone in this country were cognizant of the "facts of life," the definition of "standard English" would shift once again. All people would be on a level playing field linguistically, and one dialect of English would not carry a higher social status or more prestige than another. In short, there would be no "ruling class" of English. Ashley E. Sauer. Beaverdam, VA.

    This story can be found at: http://www.timesdispatch.com/servle...le&cid=1149191919810&path=!editorials!letters
     
  2. HerHubby

    HerHubby The SF Poet Laureate
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    As for me, it be uncredible how well ah be at grammur an' a gud spuller 2! :>

    Now, if you'll kindly excuse me, I need to get the heck out of here before the Grammar Police arrive, ha, ha!! ;>
     
  3. AnonymousOne

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    Whoever wrote this letter is completely full of shit. No one will ever take you seriously if you can't speak the fucking language properly. I take a giant dump on this letter.
     
  4. HerHubby

    HerHubby The SF Poet Laureate
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    Do you also fart in her general direction?! ;>
     
  5. HerHubby

    HerHubby The SF Poet Laureate
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    Oh well! At least she gets a free luch out of it and perhaps some "brownie points" with her professors!
     
  6. Puss_in_boots

    Puss_in_boots Adminatrix
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    Uhm..aren't all fallacies erroneous?

    As an English teacher I've heard these kinds of arguments before. The pro-ebonics crowd tried to bring attention to their cause, that teaching African-American children so-called ebonics in schools is a way to better engage their interest in learning and what have you. It's simply not true. If someone's not interested in school then they're simply not interested and no amount of trying to talk like them will make it more fun. Trying to teach children bad English is not the answer.

    Also, I agree with you A1, people will always be looked down upon (I think stigmatized is too strong a word) for using bad and improper English. For God's sake that's why we go to school, isn't it? Among other reasons, we go to school to learn proper grammar and usage. And the author of the letter is not entirely correct that standard English is the English of educated people.

    Here's a much better definition taken from UsingEnglish.com:

    Standard English
    is the variety of English that is held by many to be 'correct' in the sense that it shows none of the regional or other variations that are considered by some to be ungrammatical, or non-standard English. Received Pronunciation, often called RP, is the way Standard English is spoken; without regional variations. Standard English and RP are widely used in the media and by public figures, so it has prestige status and is regarded by many as the most desirable form of the language.

    So there you have it. It's the most desirable form of the language, so indeed, if you wish to be at all taken seriously then you have to learn it. No one is saying that you have to lose your accent or your individuality. It's simply necessary to learn standard English in order to communicate and present yourself properly in the world. People shouldn't consider it oppressive that they have to learn the right way of doing something. It's just a part of life. Get over it and do your grammar homework.
     
  7. HerHubby

    HerHubby The SF Poet Laureate
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    So much for linguistics at Old Dominion University. They DO worry more about basketball than academics there, ha, ha! I remember back when my wife and I first moved to the Richmond area from the mountains of our native southwestern Virginia. We had a sort of "hillbilly southern twang" to our voices back then. In Richmond, they have a more genteel southern accent - heeah, theyah an' uverywheyah an' rivah for examples. They tended to look down on us. Later, a bunch of people from other areas of the world and nation came in here so now Richmond speech has more of a "not from anywhere in particular newsbroadcaster" accent to it. Our families, who still live over in southwestern Virginia, say that we sound like yankees now although when we go outside the region, people still notice our Virginia southern drawl. Sometimes people outside the region will try to get us to talk so that they can listen to our accent, ha, ha! Well, maybe I oughta take lessons and learn some o' thet thare Standard English! ;>
     
  8. HerHubby

    HerHubby The SF Poet Laureate
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    Oh, I just LOVE it when Puss talks grammar!!! Heh, heh! ;>
     
  9. AnonymousOne

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    I don't know about you, but we burn those that abuse english at the stake over here.
     
  10. Dreama

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    Everyone has bad grammer over here. Being in college is nice, because it's a private school and people actually have to know how to talk and write well or else, they just won't get in.
     
  11. AnonymousOne

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    Aren't private schools nice? Pricey ... but nice.
     
  12. Bluesy

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    Pryvate skools ar awsum1!! Yeah, I went to one, too, so I'll add my voice in support of keeping the bar of proper English up there where it belongs.
     
  13. AnonymousOne

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    I punish bad grammar... :brow
     
  14. Bluesy

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    :bsdm Bad grammar, bad! Did I ever mention that back in the day the kids used to call me "Bad Grammar"? :brow
     
  15. JuicyB

    JuicyB New Member

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    Sorry Hub,
    I'm in favor of teaching standard English. You are doing a disservice to students teaching them "ebonics" or some dialect. Have you been to Jamaica? The remote country folk there could barely understand me! "Me s a Jamaican, you s American" they'd tell me. Now what do you think happens if one of these guys tries to read the NY Times? Or a book on medicine? He's lost! I speak Spanish as well as English, and I've been to neary 15 Spanish speaking counties. "Pidgeon Spanish" does not exist! It's largely uniform. English should follow the same example.
     
  16. AnonymousOne

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    I don't think HH is saying this is a good idea.
     
  17. crashdown

    crashdown New Member

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    I'm a newbie, as such one might conclude that I stereotypically should have poor grammar. But, like most, I can't stand poor grammar. :) Could it be my major in Writing? Who knows, but I do have this problem of constantly correcting my friends.
     
  18. Rose

    Rose Resident Sexy Grandma
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    ...... Omg!!! - The similarities are uncanny!!

    "Crashdown".... meet "AnonymousOne". "AnonymousOne", say hello to "Crashdown".

    [BANANA]Hey, "A-1".... she may be the one!!![/BANANA]
     
  19. HerHubby

    HerHubby The SF Poet Laureate
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    :uhh: Of course, then again, maybe A1 has registered with a second name and is letting his/her/whatever feminine lesbian side come through! :lol The guys kind of get lonely over there at his all male college! :lol Now, if you'll excuse me, I had better get out of here before A1 sees this! Ha, ha!
     
  20. HerHubby

    HerHubby The SF Poet Laureate
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    Just teasing, A1!! Hey, maybe you and crashdown oughta get together like Rose suggested! ;>