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Author Topic: Language democracy, education and opportunity  (Read 9536 times)
Iniko Ujaama
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« on: January 04, 2009, 05:21:24 AM »

Greetings
I live in a country where English is spoken as the official language but a large percentage of the population speak a "creole" with a largely French vocabulary and I think a significant African influence where structure and even pronunciation. This second language is not recognized in the education system and is blamed for "bad english" spoken by students. it is also accused of interfering with students' learning of "proper English". It is my suspicion that the English spoken here(in St. Lucia) is influenced similarly as is the french based creole by the deepset language structure in the minds of the largely African population(as opposed to the being influenced directly by the french based creole. I would like to know if there anyone can offer any useful sources or perspectives on multi-lingual situations, learning, opportunity etc in other areas of the world so that I can make a comparison. I am also concerned with teaching policy and strategy in such situations.

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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2009, 07:02:23 PM »

Greetings

There have been good things written about the "Black English" situation in the United States:

Lisa Delpit: Other People's Children and The Skin I'm In[/i}

Also, the late great June Jordan wrote a couple of crucial essays in her Movings Towards Home  collection.

There is also J.L. Dillard's book Black English which argues that Black English is a discrete language with its own history and grammar. This book also discusses pidgin and creole and has a great bibliography.

I am sure that many of the issues around language and racism are shared by St. Lucia and the U.S.  In my experience as a teacher ( a white one) I tried to balance respect for my students' ways of expressing themselves (and sharing literature written in 'Black English' like the work of Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker) with urging them to see 'formal English' for what it is, a discourse of power, inviting them to view it as a way of interfacing with that world if they so choose. It's a tricky thing.

I love what you said about the 'deepset language structure'. As an outsider looking in, I so much admire the beauty and expressive power of Black English. I would suspect that the same power exists in your "creole.'
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Iniko Ujaama
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2009, 12:41:58 AM »

Thanks. I do hope that others which such knowledge could share whatever they can.

I will attempt to get these books. I also came across the following sources
http://www.une.edu.au/langnet/definitions/papiamentu.html - This page looks at Papiamentu in the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao in the Dutch Antilles. Some positive developments concerning language. very enlightening article. It is part of a site which looks at "creoles" and "pidgins" and the like.

http://www.melanet.com/clegg_series/ebonics.html - this is one of the early articles I read on the issue and where I recognized some similarities with our language situation here.
 Some examples include
desk => des
breathe => breave (in Trinidad they say bread)
bath => baff(in Trinidad they say Bat') among others

http://www.ccsu.edu/Afstudy/upd4-3.html - is another source I encountered. The two above concern the dynamics of the languages which arose eg. "Ebonics". In another post I will explain some of the further details of my concern and the reason for my title
Again, much thanks.
I U
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Iniko Ujaama
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2009, 01:00:48 AM »

The School system and the resulting disparate opportunities and life chances between those who exist on the continuum of primary "kweyol"(creole) speakers and those with proficiency in English is one realm in which in inequality is apparent. It is perhaps where it is less visible that I think it may be most striking and impactful.

In function in various sectors of our society, English proficiency is a necessity and the lack thereof, a handicap. It is perhaps more acute in this case (where the creole has a vocabulary base in French and a structural basis in Franch and perhaps in African languages which contributed to its development) than perhaps ebonics which shares a strong semblance to the official and spoken English.

The medical field which is increasingly being filled by persons with little if any proficiency in Kweyol (Many are directly from India). How does one fare in pursuance of properly health services if one faces difficulty both in explaining adequately what one's dilema is and further, in understanding the prescriptions and advice of the doctor.

The same can be said for various other sectors. As pertains to governance, beyond voting and the throne speech(which opens parliarment) one who is not proficient in English may or may not understand the runnings of parliament.

It appears that the policy is to subtly kill the language by ignoring it.

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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2009, 03:22:57 PM »

In the United States, this issue does indeed go to the essential questions of what democracy means and what education for democracy means.  I like to use some things Paolo Friere said to clarify this. If people are oppressed, they need to understand the nature of their oppression and how it is imposed upon them. Only then can they struggle fruitfully in their lives to overcome it.  I strongly feel that children of all language communities have to be invited into the 'club' of standard 'white' discourse. It is ultimately their choice whether they enter or not, but I think that the system can be used by 'outsiders' to promote empowerment.

This puts education in the position that, if we really wish to educate marginalized children, whether the issue is language, race, culture, class...we must be willing to foster a kind of dialogue that helps students understand these dynamics. In order to do THAT, we as a society or an educational system or whatever have to be honest enough to admit that the oppression exists, and therein lies the problem. What's required on the part of teachers and school systems and governments is intelligence and honesty.  There are individual teachers on all levels thinking about this, writing about it, and trying different strategies, but what's needed is a wider understanding of the dynamics of race, culture, and class.
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2009, 04:33:17 PM »

http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Literacy/aboutdialect.asp

There is a wealth of information on this website.
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Iniko Ujaama
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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2009, 05:39:23 PM »

Greetings

I just through reading Ngugi Wa Thiongo's "Decolonizing the Mind" where he looks at the use of African languages in Literature(theatre, prose, poetry etc). Was really refreshing for me to read it. I came across this article about one who was similarly inspired by Ngugi and late last year delivered his Doctoral thesis in Gikuyu

http://sociolingo.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/kenya-scientist-writes-masters-and-doctorate-dissertations-in-his-mother-tongue/


Dissertation Makes History at the University of Wyoming

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Dec. 18, 2008 The first-ever doctoral dissertation in a Kenyan African language has been submitted to the Department of Plant Sciences and the Graduate School of the University of Wyoming.

Gatua wa Mbugwa, an instructor in UWs African American Studies Program, wrote the historic Ph.D. work in his native Gikuyu, one of the African languages of Kenya. He has translated an English copy which has been combined and submitted with the original Gikuyu version.
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