Archive for Language and education

Dialect readers redux?

In a recent article Patriann Smith, a professor of Language, Diversity and Literacy Studies at Texas Tech, makes a bold proposal: that “nonstandard Englishes” such as African American English (AAE) and Hawai’i Creole English be used as the primary language of instruction in educating children who speak them. ("A Distinctly American Opportunity: Exploring Non-Standardized English(es) in Literacy Policy and Practice", Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9/12/2016) Smith reviews evidence that speaking “nonstandard English” (her term) as a first language interferes with children’s educational progress, given the way children are taught and progress is assessed. She also questions the privileged status accorded to the “standard” (aka mainstream, higher status) dialect of English (SAE) used in education, business, government, and other institutions, and the traditional view of literacy as the ability to read that dialect. Hence the proposal that children be taught in their native dialect whether “standard” or not.

In this post I'll look at some implications of this proposal for learning to read. The idea that children who speak AAE (or another nonstandard dialect) might benefit from being taught to read using materials written in their dialect isn't new.  Some 40 years ago there was a brief, a mostly-forgotten educational experiment with "dialect readers".  They weren't widely accepted then.  Has their time finally come?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

New York high school Chinese test

Zhuang Pinghui, in the South China Morning Post (1/18/17) has an article that is truly baffling:  "US high school Chinese test stumps internet users in China".

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

A Chinese primer for English (1860)

During the last few days, there has been a flurry of excitement over the circulation of photographs and information concerning an old Chinese textbook for learning English.  Here are a couple of pages from the book (click to embiggen):

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

A child's substitution of Pinyin (Romanization) for characters, part 2

This is a photograph of a page from an essay written by a third grade student at an elementary school in Suining, Sichuan Province, China:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (21)

"Modal verbs? Not a clue!"

A couple of years ago, a LLOG guest post by Richard Hudson proposed "Three cheers for Michael Gove" in recognition of his role in "the re-introduction of grammatical analysis n the British School curriculum".

Now Ben Hemmens draws our attention to A L Kennedy's recent BBC 4 manifesto, "The power of language", which introduces the topic this way:

My work has been translated into more than twenty languages, I've won national and international awards, even, and yet I have no idea what a fronted adverbial is. Modal verb? Not a clue. In three high-functioning decades, I've never needed that language to describe my language, my personal voice rendered in writing; and I am lost for words when I learn that primary school children are now forced to scramble over unwieldy syntactical terms in order to communicate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (26)

Death to Chinese language teachers

In "Character amnesia in 1793-1794" (4/24/14), I described the so-called Flint Affair, which refers to James Flint (?1720-?), one of the first English persons to learn Chinese.  For his audacity, Flint was imprisoned for three years by the imperial government, and two Chinese merchants who helped him write a petition to the emperor were executed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)

Tibetan language instruction in Greater Tibet

Edward Wong, "Tibetan Entrepreneur Has Been Illegally Detained, Family Says" (NYT 3/10/16)

A Tibetan entrepreneur who is a vocal but moderate advocate for bilingual education in schools across Chinese-ruled Tibetan regions has been illegally detained by the police for one and a half months, his family said.

The man, Tashi Wangchuk, 30, who lives with his parents in the western town of Yushu, has written about language policy on his microblog. He has highlighted the dearth of meaningful Tibetan language education and expressed concern that many Tibetan children are unable to become fluent in their native language, a widespread worry in the ethnic group.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

Pinyin for Singlish

A correspondent from Singapore saw the following photograph in his Facebook feed:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (17)

A new expression in Cantonese

Next Media's Apple Daily (1/23/16) had an article with this headline:

Gǎngdàshēng guà xīn xiàomíng kàng chìhuà

港大生掛「新校名」抗赤化

"Hong Kong University students hang [a banner with] the 'new school name' to resist redification"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)

Spoken Sanskrit

From December 13-17, 2015, I participated in an international workshop at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS) on the Edmond J. Safra campus of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  The title of the workshop was "A Lasting Vision: Dandin’s Mirror in the World of Asian Letters".  Here's the workshop website.

The workshop was about Sanskrit poetics, especially as detailed in the Kāvyādarśa (simplified transliteration:  Kavyadarsha; Mirror of Poetry) of Daṇḍin (circa AD 7th c.), the earliest surviving systematic treatment of poetics in Sanskrit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (66)

Use the rest room beautifully

This is a photograph of a sign above a urinal at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies taken by Joseph Williams who was there for a Japanese test.  Besides the Japanglish, it's interesting that spaces are added between the words.  And there are no kanji.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (16)

Writing Chinese characters as a form of punishment

There has been a flurry of reports about a teacher in Sichuan province forcing tardy students to copy a crazy character with 56 strokes a thousand times, e.g.:

"Complex 'character test' facing tardy Chinese students" (10/29/15)

This is the whimsical, whacky character for a type of noodles that is popular in Shaanxi province.

Never mind that some people say the character has 57 strokes, while others say that it has 62 strokes, this zany monstrosity is a bear to write.  Having to copy it a thousand times would indeed be a kind of mindless, mind-numbing torture.  Furthermore, the sound that has been assigned to it — biang — is not part of the phonological inventory of Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) and the ostensible phonetic component of this symbol did not develop naturally as part of the sound system of traditional Chinese characters.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (19)

Hakka: "Guest families"

Hakka (Kèjiā 客家 ["guest families"]) is the name of a Chinese ethnic group and their language.  Their name refers to the fact that, although they came from the north centuries ago, they are now scattered in various locations throughout South China and, indeed, the world.

Although the Hakka amount to approximately only 4% of the total population of China, their influence on politics, the military, culture, and other spheres of life in the past two centuries has been disproportionately large

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)