Whether English is your first language or you are an accomplished second language speaker, dialect plays a part in how you speak.
Where we live and the people we hear play a part in how we learn and use language, even when we don’t realize it. When speakers then become teachers, we impart these same dialectal biases to our students, so how can you keep dialect to a minimum in your ESL classroom? Here are some tips to help you do just that.
How to Keep Dialect to a Minimum in the Classroom
Keep Your Options Open
Your students have goals in studying English, and those goals may or may not take them to a different area of the country or even the world. As you prepare your students for the linguistic variety they are sure to encounter wherever they go, make a point of introducing as many regional variations as possible in class. Though you may take a staunch position on the soda/pop debate, present both to your students. Make sure they know that hero, hoagie, sub and grinder all refer to the same type of sandwich. Give them any options you have heard in your own travels or from people you have met. As you introduce all these options, help your students understand where they are used in the world, as much as you can that is.
Inviting guests into your classroom is another great way to expose your students to some different regional variations they will find in English. As often as you can, bring in guest speakers, conversation partners, and visitors. Don’t worry if their English is nonstandard or if they speak with an accent. That is a great advantage for your students, and the more exposure they get to regional variations as they are learning English, the easier time they will have when they encounter native speakers in the future.
Have you ever noticed that no matter where you are in the country the newscasters all seem to sound like you? They sound the same because of a style of pronunciation they use called newscaster-ese. Instead of speaking with their regional pronunciation, these professionals modify their speech approaching the most neutral pronunciation of English. This pronunciation is probably closest to the natural accent of the Midwest, but even that accent isn’t exactly what you hear on television. If you can approach this accent in your classroom in your own speech, your students will have the greatest chance of learning English with less regional accent.
Know What’s In the Mirror
One of the most important means of avoiding dialect or regional variation in your classroom is to be aware of your own bias. ESL teachers know that every English speaker has an accent, so being familiar with the common attributes of your own accent may help you downplay them when teaching. Know what people in your region sound like, and work on your own pronunciation. In so doing, you will give your students the greatest tools for success in their English studies.
One of the hottest regional debates when it comes to English is the great soda/pop divide. It even has its own website. What other regional linguistic controversies have you encountered?