How shud we teach students tew write?

my'yah

My’yah tutoring

Editor’s note: Today’s blog comes from My’yah Mitchell, a senior peer tutor at Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy Writing Center in Baltimore, MD. Read on for her fun response to “Should Writers Use They Own English?” by Vershawn Ashanti Young.

Why y’all so closed minded? Who y’all think y’all is telling folks how they can or cannot write? If you are capable of understanding what I am saying while speaking in my own language, why should I be forced to write in “Standard English”? For those who don’t know, “Standard English” is the only form of the English language widely accepted as the “correct” form. When I refer to speaking, I’m talking about writing how I speak. For example, I don’t always pronounce erry letter in a word, or I might pronounce a letter differently. If you can understand what it is I’m sayin’ and writtin’, why do I need to write in yo language? As tutors, we should teach students to perfect their own language because if enough students prove that they can write formally in they own dialect, maybe society will began to accept it.

classroom and writing center

The classroom–and writing center!–that My’yah tutors in.

My intention is to explain why forcing students to write in society’s version of “correct English” rather than their own is doing more harm than benefit. I believe that helping students perfect their own dialect would benefit more than forcing them to learn and write what you think is correct. To help support my claim, I reference “Should writer’s use they own English?” by Vershawn Ashanti Young.

When people are forced to learn to read or write a certain way and basically told that their way of speaking is incorrect, they began to feel ignorant: “One set of rules that people be applyin to everbody’s dialects leads to perceptions that writers need ‘remedial training’ or that speaker’s dialects are dumb” (Young 112). This is exactly why y’all shouldn’t be forcing your dialects on others because you make ‘em feel dumb. This could lead to a number of things; people could give up on writing, or people would be forced to write in a way which they are not comfortable in, causing them to fail. All of which could be prevented by helping them perfect they own dialect.

Peer tutors @ XXX high

The peer tutors of the VTTMAA Writing Center

As tutors, teachers, and professors, we sometimes fear something because we don’t really understand it. This is why I agree with Young when he states, “we all should know everybody’s dialect, at least as many as we can, and be open to the mix of them in oral and written communication” (111). It ain’t fair that people have to talk or write a certain way to please society. Especially when it’s been proven to cause more failing grades and more money; for example, “The nation’s blue chip companies wrote poorly and that businesses were spending as much as $3.1 billion annually on remedial training” (Young 112). Instead of spending $3.1 billion because people are “writing poorly”, you coulda been educating yoself on ways to help them better write using they own language. Incidents like these are why instructional people such as tutors, teachers, or professors are afraid to try things like these because they are not educated on other’s dialects and will view it as teaching their student wrong.

In conclusion, helping students perfect they own dialect ‘stead of forcing them to write in yo dialect will help raise confidence in writers, it would take less time than teaching them to write in a new dialect other than their own, it would definitely prevent the spending of billions of dollars, and students grades wouldn’t drop in result of being forced to write in a way you are comfortable with and not them.

Comment for My’yah and her team? Respond below!

3 thoughts on “How shud we teach students tew write?

  1. It would be nice if we could all communicate in the variety of English we felt most comfortable with, wear the clothes we feel most comfortable in for a job interview and feed our vegetarian guests the food we feel most comfortable with. To do so, however, would often be counterproductive. In the second case, we might want something the interviewer has the power to give; in the third, our relationship with our guests might dictate we take their desires and preferences into account. Audience expectations are all important. Writing is (most of the time) an act of communication, not self expression (which is why you can get away best of all in your own variety of the language when you write poetry).

    An effective communicator speaks to others on their terms. When I speak to Dutch people I don’t assume they speak my language; I make an effort to speak theirs because I’m on their soil. If your objective is to persuade (and in a lot of university writing it is), you will not persuade your audience well if they don’t easily understand you and feel you are making an effort to talk to them.

    There is a reverse side to this, mind you. We expect the members of the academic world to write for us in English, regardless of their own language. That’s a shame when their languages are repressed and empoverished because they have to use English to be heard. I think they should be allowed to write in their own language, but that’s because they have a ready audience who want to hear them in that language. Similarly, students who speak a non-standard variety of English should communicate with peers who speak that dialect in that dialect. Not to is just snobbish. But to write to someone in a dialect you know they don’t master well is just ineffective. And in power relations that are unequal (and the teacher-student relationship is unequal) it disadvantages the weaker party.

    Being able to communicate in and switch across multiple codes (languages and dialects) is part of being educated. Most of my students can speak three or more languages fluently. It shouldn’t be an enormous challenge for the average US student to learn a different dialect of English.

  2. It is good to know the variety of languages but the standard English is understood by everyone. It must not be a challenge for native students to speak or write in standard English. They might feel comfortable in dialect languages but they must also know the different dialect of English.

  3. This is awesome piece of information by My’yah, I couldn’t agree any more. I am also pretty much against schools who teach in language other than their mother language. All of the first world countries teach their youngsters in their own languages such as USA, Japan, China etc. I really support her views.

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