No, that isn’t “Bad English.” (article)

Mike Laser shared this article, which discusses dialect and ideas of correctness in speech and writing.

No, that isn’t “Bad English.”

The article is subtitled, “The obligatory lecture that needs to start every English class.” While I wouldn’t quite go that far, I do tend to spend a class on things like accent, dialect, and the arbitrariness of language at the start of the semester, especially in 105.

To be precise, I actually don’t use the term dialect much and prefer to use the term “code,” which I think is easier for students to grasp (and leads neatly into the issue of code-switching). A second, larger reason for using “code” is that I also want students to think of non-verbal codes. I usually lead into the discussion by drawing things on the board, such as a house or the sun, and asking how they know what these are. I also will often draw a disassembled stick figure, which they immediately recognize when put together, and which they will tend to gender as male or female with slight additions. These activities and such discussion lay the groundwork for getting students to think about the shared codes they possess; how they access (or lack access to) such codes; how these codes affect their thinking and reading and writing; what sort of codes are being emphasized (or deemphasized) in the writing and reading they do in my class and in their other work in the university; cultural codes they work with and how these affect them; and so on.

In my experience, such explicit discussion of codes (or, in the article, dialects) has been extremely productive for my classes.

What about you? How do you touch upon dialects, correctness, codes, and related matters? And, of course, what did you think of the article?