Standard English

Over at EFL Classroom 2.0 there is a survey about standard English.  He asks if there is such a thing as standard English and whether or not it should be taught.  I have a little problem with the question as it has two parts and I might agree with one part and not the other, and there is no option for that.  It is an interesting question nonetheless.

When I was in grad school, one of my professors told me that anything a native English speaker says is correct.  (My MA TESOL came from a linguistics department rather than English or education or someplace else.)  I have always believed that.  English has no regulating body that determines correctness, and I like it that way!

That does not help us much when we think about what kind of English we need to teach our students, though.

I really believe that there is no single answer to the question of what we should teach our students.  Everyone’s needs are different.  In my English for Academic Purposes institute, I believe I have a responsibility to teach my students more formal academic English.  I am not concerned that they be able to talk to people on the street as much as I am that they be able to understand academic texts.  I have a more prescriptivist approach to grammar with these students than I did when I taught migrant farmworkers.  With them I was more interested in them being able to communicate with doctors and police and their children’s teachers.  If it wasn’t “perfect”, none of us cared.

Go on over to EFL Classroom and take the survey.  And, if you want, let me know how you voted here!


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