Date: Wed, 30 May 2001 21:27:29 -0400
From: "David P. Dillard" 
Subject: RESOURCES: Dialect Speakers and Literacy

Children learn language from parents and teachers and are very aware, very
soon in life what is acceptable and what is unacceptable speech at home
and amongst adults. They quickly learn to speak Latin when they are in
Rome. A fascinating dictionary, however, defines language that children
learn and speak on the playground and some of it is both graphic and off
color.  This language includes quite a number of words and phrases that
they would not take home and use around adults.  It is, however, important
language to the children for communicating to their peers what is
important to them and what they value and are concerned about in their

Playground Slang

There is another playground, the Educational Cyberplayground, to which we
may turn to learn a great deal more about the importance and role of
dialect speech to the speaker, adult or child, as a base camp and resource
for their linguistic and intellectual development.  The tools that one
brings to learning are critical to the building upon existing knowledge
and to learning the new knowledge that needs to be acquired.  The Dialect
Speakers page of the Educational Cyberplayground has links and content
provided by experts such as John Rickford, John Baugh and Dr. Robin Sabino
that discuss the importance of the use of the dialect or the first
language known by the speaker as a crucial support tool in their learning
process.  To minimize and stigmatize the worth of Ebonics, Pidgin
Spanglish or Changlish, is to deflate the ego and self worth of its
speakers and to block them in their understanding of new learning by
forcing them to acquire that new learning with words and terminology they
do not understand.


There is additional material on dialect speakers and the importance of
dialect speech to their growth in knowledge and understanding on the
Vernacular page of the Educational Cyberplayground.


The Literacy page on the Educational Cyberplayground presents a great deal
of material about the dialect speaker and literacy.  The traditional
methods of teaching have produced much failure in the end result of
teaching literacy to those encountering the teaching as second language
instruction.  There is a need to use the tools, knowledge and experiences
of these dialect and other language speakers so that the instruction
builds from words, ideas and experiences that are familiar to them.  The
music art and words that have meaning to them will help them absorb new
knowledge that is built into their learning experinence while drawing upon
these valued parts of their own lives and living environment. Think of how
much content you would absorb in a class taught in the Chinese or Russian
language if you had never learned a word in those languages.


Literacy and Dialect Speakers

On May 18, 2001, Karen Ellis posted a very valuable message about the
translation of the Bible to Pidgin for the Creole speakers of Hawaii.
Those who speak this language are very uncomfortable learning the Bible's
concepts and lessons in standard English, let alone a defunct version of
English from several centuries ago.  The project is taking place because
of the strong belief in the idea expressed above that teaching and
instruction is futile if the persons learning have no clue as to the
meanings of the words that present the knowledge or how the ideas taught
relate to their knowledge.

ARTICLE: Hawai`i Creole English Bible translation

[Membership in the DUC discussion group is required
to access the archives of the DUC group on the Yahoo
Groups website]

The language that one speaks is a part of a persons feelings or lack of
feelings of worth, just as much as the family one comes from or the
cultural heritage one has grown into.  If one doubts this concept, read
about the development and growth of Nationalism in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries that has been based on national, ethnic and linguistic
identity.  Even the children in the playground likely feel a sense of
independence and power through the development of a language that is not
forced upon them by the adults who regulate their lives in so many ways.

Karen Ellis has brought together a collection of children's songs in a
book that show an example of the very positve value and importance of the
dialect speakers own music and art in their own language as a source of
worth and identity in a large world.

DOMINO by Karen Ellis
Traditional Children's Songs, Proverbs, and Culture >From the American
Virgin Islands Cross Curricular - Interdisciplinary - Multi-Cultural
Resource Book and Cassette

The digital divde and the large population of people who do not learn to
read and write will continue to be a major source of economic displacement
and poverty if we fail to learn to find effective and germaine methods of
teaching those who because their culture and language are different from
others in our society.  Failure to find educational opportunities designed
to teach them in ways and words that they can understand and assimilate,
creates a group of people that cannot function in the larger economic and
intellectual society around them, with the potential for serious and
disruptive problems for the entire society.

David Dillard

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