“We need to break away from the idea that there is one right way to speak or write; to be willing to have ourselves challenged as readers and listeners, especially when we encounter speakers or writers who speak or write with an ‘accent,’ or use language in different ways than we expect. “
In Episode 14, guest Adrienne Jones Daly (bio) reminds us of the nature of language itself, which is constantly being created and modified, selected, and targeted. When we add our own identities, and the cultures and experiences from which our identities spring, we meet in language a living organism that requires awareness of our differences, and a willingness to negotiate meaning in order to reach understanding.
This organic complexity is true of language in the simplest of exchanges. How much more critical, then, to know these aspects of language and to address them with young people learning about the world!
Yet in many (most) cases, we as parents, educators, coaches, or employers are unaware of the dynamic and highly-personalized nature of the act of using language. We are unaware that our personal language and cultural experiences set us up for individual perspective. This perspective means our personal spoken and written usage of words, phrases, and evoked images may not in fact be truly understood by others.
This unnoticed misunderstanding is not limited to those trying to communicate in second languages or “second cultures.” The assumption that there is such a thing as standard language–here in the United States, “standard English”–blinds us not only to the nature of language itself, but to the hyper-individuality of language usage, impoverishing our communication at best, leading to dangerous misunderstandings at worst.
This issue touches on every experience in our culture. Take a moment to ponder the conversations happening even now in our countries and communities. By assuming a standard language that does not in fact exist, we can end up not negotiating meaning in good faith, not understanding references, and making errors.
Adrienne Jones Daly asks us: “How can educators bring their own language histories into their classrooms to encourage students to embrace linguistic, cultural, and ideological diversity?“
Indeed, how can we change our training of young people and ourselves to realize the complex nature of language, the linguistic and cultural “accent” we each bring to our spoke and written language, so as to prepare to negotiate in good faith, to truly understand each other?
Enjoy the podcast, and check out Adrienne’s biography and the rich and diverse resources she shares.
In what ways do you, consciously or unconsciously, contribute to language diversity? Where do you experience – or contribute – to making meaning with others through linguistic and cultural negotiation?
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