A. Warm up
Think about the questions below to prepare you for the topic. Talk about your ideas with your classmate(s).
- How many languages do you speak? Which languages, dialects, or accents do you use at home? Which do you use at school?
- How many languages are spoken in your country?
- Have you heard of the word standard/standardized? What do you think they mean?
- Does your home language have a “standard” language? Are there different dialects, regional variations or accents?
B. Vocabulary Preview
Search for definitions and/or translations of the words. Review the new terms with your instructor and classmates.
- Multilingual (Noun)
- Dialects (Noun)
- Accents (Noun)
- Variations (Noun)
- Standard (Noun)
C. Read all about it!
Today, non-natives speakers outnumber “native” speakers of English by 3:1. We are multilingual. So then, who really has ownership over a standard English? What is a native speaker? Who decides?
The English language is spoken all around the world. That includes varieties such as British English, Australian English, South African English, Caribbean English, American English and so many more. In the United States, a country of over 300 million people, there are many dialects and accents of English. The variations reflect regions and social groups as well as social identities (some examples of this include Chicano English, African-American English, and Southern English to name a few).
There is great value in knowing more about these different types of Englishes (World Englishes) in the United States and internationally as well. These varieties of English show both the cultural values of the speakers. They also show innovation in adapting and adding new words and language patterns to make English relevant to the speaker’s everyday experiences in the world.
When a textbook refers to a “Standard” English, we as learners, have the knowledge and power to think critically about whose standard we are referring to. It is a much bigger conversation than who or what is right or wrong. More often, those who have economic and political power make decisions over which standard is the “right” one to use.
The idea of what ¨Standard English¨ is will actually depend on the region where the English is spoken. Regional dialects and variations of English are, in fact, the norm. Linguists, people who study and learn about language, point out that many types of variations of language are not only acceptable but also incredibly interesting, powerful, and critical since they reflect people wanting to communicate meaningfully within their identity and social groups.
The false narrative, or false story of their being only one dominant English dialect is what world renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie might call a ¨single story.¨ To learn more about what a “single story” means, watch the TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Talk to your partner(s) about the following questions. Consider choosing roles for the discussion:
- note-taker (write down key ideas that come up)
- time-keeper (make sure you are on track with time)
- facilitator (make sure everyone gets a chance to share)
- speaker (share the key ideas from the discussion with the larger class)
- According to the reading, what does the word “multilingual” mean? Do you think the author believes there is such a thing as a “native speaker”? Explain.
- What types of Englishes does the author list in paragraph 2? List 2-3 types.
- What does the author say about the term “Standard” English? Explain with support from the reading.
- According to the reading, what do linguistics think about their being different language varieties?
- Why do you think the author refers to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the last paragraph of the reading?
E. Topics for Writing
Choose a topic to write about. Be sure to practice the five steps in “Getting Ready to Write” to get started with the topic(s) you choose.
- Write about what you learned from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk on the danger of a “single story.” What are some of the key ideas that you remembered that grabbed your attention?
- Write about the dialects and regional varieties of language(s) that exist in your home country or region. What key ideas can you share about the dialects and varieties spoken and used in your context? Use your notes from Part F to help you write about this. Include what you would like to about your family and friends related to this topic.
- Write a response to the reading. Share your questions, ideas, and reactions to the idea of a standard form of language (such as English) based on what you have read in this unit. See if you can integrate some of the vocabulary from this lesson to your response.
- How can varieties of a language, like English, for example, show a people’s innovation and adaptation and culture? Write about the positive things that can come from acknowledging multiple varieties of a language like English.
- Write about what you learned about the different standards and dialects in your household, in your region, and/or in your country. Make sure to include what questions and thoughts you have about the idea of a “standard” English based on what we’ve learned so far.
- Watch the TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. What did Adichie share about the “single story”? What stood out to you from her talk?
Talk to a family member, a friend or do an internet search about the following:
- How many dialects exist in your home country?
- How many dialects of your home language do you speak?
- Do your family members speak different dialects? What are they?
- In your home language, are there different regional accents that you know of?
- Talk to your classmates and/or instructor about what you learned by interviewing family member(s), friends or searching the internet about the dialects and regional accents that exist in your home country.
G. Additional Resources
- Multiple Articles: Do you speak American?
- Interactive Map: What dialect do you speak? A map of American English
- TED Talk/Video: 3 ways to speak English
- Article: There’s no such thing as Standard English