Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Slang: now the teachers don't know nuffink neither

Yesterday's Daily Mail featured a brief story about a school in Portsmouth where two teaching assistants have been criticised in an OFSTED report for their "poor grammar". As usual, the Daily Mail's message boards seem to act like a magnet to every droooling, knuckledragging dimwit in the universe (as well as the occasional rational human) so within a day 100 comments about the state of the British education system had been posted, ranging from those that blame Nigerians, Alesha Dixon and Tony Blair to those that are sure it's the fault of scruffy (male) teachers and Alan Sugar.

The story actually turns out to have very little to do with slang (despite the Mail and this blog's headline) and much more to do with dialect. The teaching assistants had apparently used the local construction "I likes football" (which shows a different subject verb agreement from Standard English's "I like football", or more accurately "I hate Millwall"). But again, and like so many other stories about aspects of language, the anger isn't really directed at the feature itself (which is pretty harmless) but at the users of it and those that are perceived as letting it ruin young people's education.

I've done a (slightly) more technical post about this over on the Teaching English Grammar in Schools blog if anyone's interested, but is it really such a bad thing to have a couple of teaching assistants using a local variety of English in the classrroom?

And wouldn't it be good if next time the Daily Mail ran a story like this, a mass language intervention of intelligent comments from A level English Language students drowned out the nutty ramblings of the usual message board trolls?


Beryl Pratley said...

I work with The English Project in Winchester, and last year the children of Trosnant's Year 6 (the very same school that Ofsted criticised) wrote some great "Goodbye" songs before they left the school. We put a video of one of them on Youtube, see this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdsow2UcWfY Apart from a tendency to American pronunciation, which they obviously think is right for the song, they showed a good mastery of language while writing their songs. Next Wednesday, Oct 13th it's our second English Language Day, and we're asking everyone to join in with the Language of Place, celebrating local distinctiveness in language, particularly through locally created place names. Have a look on www.englishproject.org

Dan said...

Thanks for the link, Beryl. It's a bit ironic that you're organising a celebration of all things local while the Mail article (and its unpleasant message board users) lays into local dialect!