Home-language a barrier in education?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by peachacid, Feb 1, 2011.

  1. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    Feb 1, 2011

    I work in a predominantly African American school in an urban area. Many of our students speak "African American English" (which is called various things: AAVE, Black English, Ebonics, etc).

    I am on the fence about how I feel this should be treated in school. I am all about respecting their home language, but I also feel that we pretend their language and Standard English are one and the same, and that if they just "try" they can speak Standard English with no issues. I don't believe they can, but whenever I say that people get extremely angry. (I believe it would be just as difficult -- nearly impossible -- for a person who speaks Standard English to switch, with no explicit instruction, to AAVE perfectly.)

    Does anyone deal with a similar issue at their school? I worry that our school is ignoring a huge issue with these kids' education, and that not teaching them to speak properly (a word I hate but you know what I mean -- properly for the world in which we live) is doing them a huge disservice.
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 1, 2011

    In my district we teach standard/formal English. Students are expected to speak during presentations with standard English and students are expected to write in standard English. This is true for all students, even those that are ELL/ESL students.

    However, in their everyday conversations...we let students talk as they will and don't expect standard English.
     
  4. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Feb 1, 2011

    I've seen this as a problem in several schools and in several dialects. My first time subbing in a rural school in a new state, I couldn't understand a single thing a student was trying to ask me. It wasn't his accent, but his slang was completely Appalachian. He agreed to switch to standard English for me after I translated his question into Ebonics, which I understood perfectly and he couldn't. It was a major lesson for the whole class and myself.
     
  5. peachacid

    peachacid Companion

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    Feb 1, 2011

    I feel like teachers have given up on the students' learning to speak any other way. Like, "Oh that's just how they speak" and not correcting/changing anything. I know one teacher who corrects them and has them repeat the Standard English way to say things. I do the same in academic conversations.

    Another problem I see with this is that there are many professionals at my school who also speak AAVE. So the kids see no reason to learn standard English, as they see that a person can be successful without it.

    I think I just need to continue doing what I'm doing and not worry about others, but sometimes it just drives me crazy!
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Feb 1, 2011

    I think that there is a kind of racism that still exists when it comes to the use of this type of English versus "standard" or "formal" English. My thoughts on the matter aren't fully developed, so I'm not sure I can explain exactly what I mean. Does anyone else kind of know what I'm talking about?

    In my classes we talk a lot about code-switching, that is adjusting your language and vocabulary to fit a particular setting. Like, you might speak one way at the mall with your friends, but you'd speak another way at church with your grandmother. Most students seem to understand that analogy. We talk about how they can speak outside my classroom however they like, but while they're in my classroom we need to have a shared, common language. For us that means either the target language or "standard" English.

    I don't agree that students can't adjust their language. While most of them might not be aware of the differences in a general sense, they can definitely tell a difference when I repeat what they say or rephrase it into a question. "You don't got no pencil?" Easily 9 times out of 10, they will immediately adjust their sentence, "I don't have a pencil."

    We use the "standard" English in my class not because it's better or because it's more correct or because they won't be able to function in society without it, but because it's the tradition of our language and it's one that we can all adjust to. At least half my students are non-native speakers of English.
     
  7. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Feb 1, 2011

    The students could be successful using AAVE...however, I bet even these teachers who speak AAVE can write standard written English. Otherwise, they probably would not have been able to find a teaching position.

    You need to do what you think is best and let the other staff do what they do. It's frustrating but a large part of teaching.
     
  8. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Feb 1, 2011

    I explain to students that there is formal and informal English. There are certain situations where you are expected to speak and write each one. As long as you understand both vernaculars and can distinguish the appropriate time to use each, you are fine.
     
  9. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Feb 1, 2011

    I agree. Without modeling from K up, many students will not be able to speak standard English, write standard English, and understand standard English. Much of the ability to switch back and forth will be based on exposure to standard English.

    So, those that watch TV a lot may have an easier time. Those that just hang with friends and relatives and are not exposed to standard English will struggle for a while.

    School should be standard English. If they want to use non-standard while speaking with their friends during break time, that is not my concern. However, when involved in instructional exercises or talking with teachers, administrators, etc standard English should be used.
     
  10. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Feb 1, 2011

    Standard English is the language of successful people in the US. President Obama does not speak Ebonics, in fact he is known for his skills at delivering speeches. Children who are raised in households/neighborhoods where non-standard English is used need to know that style and dialect can, and should, be adjusted for different circumstances. What serves them well in their neighborhood doesn't necessarily serve them well in school or the work environment.
     

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