The English language has many varieties such as American English, Canadian English, Australian English, etc. Each of these have a standard form as well as additional dialects. Students who begin life with a dialect or vernacular other than Standard American English, though native English speakers, will often have a more difficult time adjusting to school. They may be misjudged as less intelligent, encounter prejudice, and face a more difficult time receiving the appropriate language reinforcement they need in order to thrive in the academic environment. According to Crochunis, Erdey, & Swedlow, “While most of us recognize that learning a new language presents challenges, we may not realize that for some children learning a new language variety (dialect) is one of the most daunting tasks they face in school” (2002, section III, p. 18 – emphasis added). In this essay, I will discuss the standard form of a language, dialects, creoles, and the difficulties or limitations they can produce. In particular, I will demonstrate the differences facing speakers of the AAE and ChE dialects, the effects on learning they produce, and possible ways to address and support those students in learning to function within the SAE world.
1. Explanation of Standard Language, Dialects, and Creoles
The standard form of any language is hard to define; one might say it is found “in the eye or ear of the beholder”. The standard of a language may be imprecisely defined as “the variety used in formal writing”, and by influential persons in the public eye such as national politicians and television anchors. Thus considered dominant in the given culture, it is also sometimes labeled the prestige form and may also serve social functions within that society. In this essay we will consider Standard American English; the diversity of its forms are essentially dialects – varieties of American English that differ in logical, systematic ways from each other and from the standard form.
A dialect is also difficult to define accurately, and in most cases, one is not more logical, regular or superior than the other. A dialect is a form or variety of a language, used by a certain population, with its own set of rules or structure, that is understandable to other forms of the same language (mutually intelligible). Dialects can be regional or social, and result due to the subtle changes in language that occur within social groups or geographic areas. The pronunciation (accent), phonology and syntax may vary, but the overall language form remains comprehensible to other dialects.
A creole, in contrast, is a form of language that ultimately develops when language forms that are not mutually intelligible are forced to function in close proximity. When the speakers of two distinct languages need to communicate, a basic pidgin may be formed using properties from both languages and simple grammar structure. It is always, at least, a second language to the user. However, once a...