Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hadaway wi ye

The responses to the story last week about Sacred Heart Primary in Middlesbrough correcting their pupils' use of non-standard English are still coming thick and fast.

The most original is from the author, David Almond, who was born in the North East. In his phonetically written article for The Guardian, he argues that "the commin langwij cums from the hart an sole, and must neva be forgot". It takes a minute to tune in, but it's a good read once you're on his wavelength.

This article in yesterday's Independent on Sunday is great stuff too, because it's written by a genuine expert, a sociolinguist from King's College, London. Here, Julia Snell  shows that it's more than just a question of promoting "good English" - which is what all English teachers are trying to do in pretty much everything they teach - but also to recognise the close link between language and identity.

As Snell says, "Ultimately, it is not the presence or absence of non-standard forms in children's speech that raise educational issues; rather, picking on non-standard voices risks marginalising some children, and may make them less confident at school. Silencing pupils' voices, even with the best intentions, is just not acceptable".

Sadly, this article by a teacher called Pete Turner is less exciting, partly because it has no real style and partly because it's just a rather predictable moan about young people's language. Sorry Pete, but if you'd opened your ears a bit more to some of your students' language styles, it might have made a more engaging read. And as for northerners having large, extended families and southerners getting their slang from grime? Right...

The fact that two of the articles have over 600 responses shows what a live issue this is out there in the real world, not just in our English Language lessons. If you're looking at doing your Language Intervention for ENGA4 coursework in the next few weeks (and you probably should be) then this is exactly the kind of language debate that you should be getting stuck into.

(HT to Ellie Aslin, Jon Dolton and @backwellengdept and @UKLiteracy for first link, Paul Kerwsill via the EMC Facebook page for the second, and Alasdair Mackenzie for the last.)

Edited on Monday 11.02.13 to add 2nd article and restructure references.

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