Interesting article on language

By Dr. Carolyn Cooper: “Louise Bennett’s confident use of her mother tongue also clashed with conventional wisdom about the purpose of formal education in a British colony. For those lucky enough to get it, education was designed to lead students out of darkness into light. English was, unquestionably, the language of light. ‘Dialect’ was certainly not a language; using it was a clear sign of the total darkness of its speakers.”  Read the rest at: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110911/cleisure/cleisure3.html#.Tm5Yf_OxA0w.facebook

1 Comment

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One response to “Interesting article on language

  1. Tessa C. Smith

    I have only just begun to examine the intimate relationships between language, power and dominance, not in the sense that language is often used to stir up protests or incite people to overthrow governments. But, the subtle and not so subtle consequences that arise from people’s view of language usage are coming into sharper focus.

    Whether we like to admit it or not, we have all been guilty of marrying the way people speak to societal ideas of prestige and intelligence. We have also assessed ourselves by these standards to determine where we stand, to which camp we belong – the sophisticated and intelligent group or the other.

    But, assumptions about people’s abilities based on the way they/we speak can be counterproductive and destructive. In her article Cooper wrote, “many of us still think of our mother tongue as an anonymous, despised ‘dat.’” By extension, then, wouldn’t it be plausible that many speakers of a “mother tongue ” could also view themselves as a despised person?

    As a beginner in the field of literacy and English language studies, I will not venture to say whether patois or Creole should be taught as a first step in the English language classroom, but I do not believe that educators should shy away from “mother tongues”. Engaging in dialogue about standard English dialect and “mother tongues, ” within and without the classroom, thereby validating the rich histories of both, could create a more inviting atmosphere for learning to happen. Additionally, this could encourage students to take advantage of the fuller range of language they could have at their disposal if they become proficient different language systems.

    After all, what makes the standard English dialect more effective or prestigious that any other? Are these characteristics innate in any language system? Does the standard English dialect have an edge over “mother tongues” when it comes to conveying ideas? Language is certainly a hot topic but I think the debates say more about the human condition than it does the language systems we praise or vilify.

    -Tessa C. Smith

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