Jamila Lyiscott has been making the social media rounds with her spoken word piece, “3 Ways to Speak English.” It pretty much sums up my earlier posts on dialect in America (which you can read here and here).
The basic premise: Being “articulate” is not about your ability to use a particular dialect that’s arbitrarily considered to be “superior” or “standard.” Rather, being articulate means:
A) Having a variety of language resources to draw on (Funds of Knowledge in academ-ese)
B) Knowing when to fit them to a particular task (Code Switching, Metalinguistic Awareness)
As a society, we’re slowly coming to admire, even envy, those who are bilingual. We not only acknowledge the practical value, but also the cultural enrichment that comes with being able to access the world in more than one tongue.
However, the idea that there are similar benefits to being bi-dialectical is less widely discussed and even less widely accepted.
Is there a significant difference that leads us to encourage bilingualism but insist on a single, mythical “standard” dialect of each language? Or is there a way to respect dialect diversity in the way we (are coming to) respect linguistic diversity?
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