Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk
We often talk about the divide that exists between what goes on in the academy and what happens in the “real” world. It is one thing for a linguist to say that African American English is a legitimate variety of American English, as are many other types of ethnic and regional varieties, like Chicano American English and Southern English. But it is another thing entirely to say this and have the average everyday person understand and believe it. Today, there are many linguists who are taking their research to the people, and for them, it starts at the level of the educator. Anne Charity Hudley and Christine Mallinson are two linguists who offer teachers tools to understand the kinds of linguistic diversity that students are bringing to the classroom. They are both engaged in service-learning, which in part involves helping teachers to understand the difference between dialectal variation and actual student error in listening, reading, and writing. They also help teachers to create activities that address language variation in the classroom, without diminishing it in favor of a standard variety. Perhaps with a better understanding of the kinds of variations that exist in the English language, teachers can become more knowledgeable and aware of the communication needs of their students. Let’s first acknowledge and appreciate the diversity in our students, and then work towards helping them to master American English by the book. Big up to the committed teachers doing some of the hardest work out there. You deserve recognition!
For anyone interested, Christine and Anne will be teaching a course this summer at Virginia Commonwealth University.