Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kentucky Seasonin'

Let me say that language is my pastime and my passion. I am not, however, a native English speaker, oh no sirree bob. I grew up speaking pure Kentucky. We had English class every day from first grade on, but it was a pleasant interlude of diagramming sentences, memorizing lists of prepositions and filling in blanks on worksheets. I ran into the house at the end of the day screeching, "Mama! I done so good today!" Our teachers made a halfhearted effort to banish "ain't" from the classroom. They made us say, "I saw Esau sitting on a seesaw. Esau saw me too," but what we heard every day in our homes and in our community was, "I seen...". When I got to college, I was fascinated to learn that there was such variety in the English I was hearing. As I got deeper into studies of foreign languages, I started to see the patterns in my own and to alter them. I learned to speak standard English. This is the same process that many immigrant students are experiencing today as they realize the words spoken at home differ from what is spoken other places. We need to recognize that some of our homegrown students are experiencing the same thing. I wholeheartedly agree that students need to be taught standard English usage. We need to take a lesson from the wicked witch of the west, however, and remember that these things need to be done delicately. Students need not be ashamed of speaking their native tongue, nor should they feel that they need to correct their elders. When I go home, I speak standard English. I sometimes express an idea in a way that makes me lapse back into my native language to make a point. I respect the past and the hardworking people who may not have had much education but realized that roots were good but wings were better.

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