In the article “Teaching Standard English: Whose Standard?” Linda Christensen raised questions about why children are taught language in one particular way and not the other. During standard English courses at schools and colleges, students are often confronted by large lists of new words, grammar and punctuation rules, irregular verbs, and so on. However, it is important to question why language is taught through rules as well as why students are forced to believe that they will be valued in the society because of their correct pronunciation and the use of “cash language.” Therefore, the most significant problem that the author found in teaching students English language was that they rarely knew where they could find help in their learning while teachers had no idea how to adequately correct mistakes.
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It was interesting to read the article because the author had a unique approach towards language. When reflecting on her personal experiences with language teaching, Linda Christensen mentioned Fred, a student who was extremely scared of taking risks in his learning and only followed strict grammar rules that he had memorized. The author wrote: “the biggest problem with Fred’s writing was that he didn’t make mistakes” (Christensen, 1990, p. 37). This meant that the student felt extreme discomfort when using a new language and experimenting with it; he would write with a purpose of avoiding mistakes instead of genuinely expressing his thoughts and opinions in a paper. Therefore, Christensen underlined the problem of valuing the way something in said instead of what is said in language teaching. It became evident that the author did not hold a view that students had to be limited in their own opinions and thoughts for the purpose of getting to learn a language based on strict rules. When learners are frowned upon for experimenting with language and are ridiculed for making mistakes, they usually lose interest and confidence in learning, which are huge barriers to education.
The issue of alienation played a significant role in the author’s discussion because educational facilities tend to make students feel alone in their learning. Thus, it is the role of teachers to encourage students not to be afraid of making mistakes and sharing their thoughts, especially in language learning. Because the primary purpose of languages is to express opinions for communication, teachers should not put an emphasis on grammatical rules since they may often restrict communication. To make language learning a creative and liberating process, Christensen offered such strategies as writing stories, poems, letters, and essays to share them during lessons. In this way, learning becomes an interactive process where every student has opportunities to share his or her writing and be heard by others. In such a welcoming environment where students are equal in their language learning, the problem of alienation fades away as it is replaced by creativity and the freedom to express one’s thoughts.
To conclude, “Teaching Standard English: Whose Standard?” is an excellent article that spread the message of rethinking the way students are taught language to encourage engagement, creativity, and freedom from alienation. Schools and teachers have done enough to intimidate students and make them feel less successful in learning when they make mistakes. Errors should be embraced and celebrated as ways to improve one’s language learning; only in this way will students learn and become liberated and confident in their knowledge.
Christensen, Linda. “Teaching Standard English: Whose Standard?” English Journal, vol. 79, no. 2, 1990, pp. 36-40.