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Education Discussion: American Tongues

Updated on April 2, 2013

American Tongues: Introduction

American Tongues

Besides being quite an interesting documentary, American Tongues has piqued my interest and caused me to delve into the various ways in which our accents say things about who we are, with regards to a teaching career. After re-watching American Tongues, on YouTube, I have come to the conclusion that there are three main ways in which various dialects of the English language differ. Speakers of a certain dialect may use words not used in other dialects. They may use the same words that other dialects use, but with a different meaning. They may also combine familiar words in unfamiliar ways. Whatever the case, it is clear that the dialect that we speak says a lot to others about who we are. I believe that all teachers should consider their own accent and dissect it to determine what factors it brings to the table.

Various Dialects

Every part of the united states has a various dialect of english, and a different way of going about speaking the language.

We each have various words which we use in our various which are not used anywhere else in the states. For example, in the Michigan/Ohio area, the words "to be" are dropped out of sentences when they would normally come before verbs. For example, when a Philadelphian would say "The dishes need to be washed", someone speaking a Michigan/Ohio dialect would say "The dishes need washed". In some parts of the southern united states, the dialect allows for more than one modal. A modal is a word in the following category:

  • can
  • could
  • shall
  • should
  • will
  • would
  • might
  • may
  • must
  • used to

An English-speaker not from the southern United States would only be able to use a single modal:

  • I might go to the mall today.
  • I used to be able to dance, but I'm out of practice.
  • I probably should study for that exam, but I might not.

In a southern-American dialect, the following sentences would be quite acceptable:

  • I might could go to the mall today.
  • I used to could dance, but I'm out of practice.
  • I may should study for that exam, but I probably won't.

Another difference between the various ways in which we speak, different parts of the United States go about speaking differently. In some parts of the southeastern United States, as Cratis Williams, the folklorist in the video to the right, says, " talks far around a subject before he hits it." But A.C. Greene, a historian, also from the video on the right, says the following about the western part of the united states. "I think that most westerners, in their speaking, feel like they're being more open, more forthright, more trustworthy. I think that westerners feel about their speech sorta way they do about their social rules and things, y'know. You're just supposed to come out and let everybody see and hear, you're not supposed to hide anything."

Teacher's Perspective

With the above in mind, I believe that teachers should be dialect-conscious. This is, of course, not to say that teachers should necessarily suppress their own dialect, but that they should decide when to use and when not to use different parts of their dialect. More so, a teacher with an exceptional understanding of various dialects can piece together the best parts of each of the dialects which they've experienced to form a functional dialect with which to speak which would allow for the most ease of understanding for the target audience.

This is not very different from a person having a professional way of speaking and a separate colloquial or informal way of speaking. As such, we are already managing more than one dialect based on our personal surroundings for our own personal societal reasons, how much more valuable would it be if we, as teachers, would master an appropriate dialect based on our student base, for the benefit of our students. It is also incredibly important to teach students to analyze their own dialect given the settings in which they find themselves.

More American Tongues

See, Below, a few more videos which touch on more intimate parts of the various dialects in the United States.

Dialect versus Jargon

This video shows an interesting look at some computer Jargon circa 1985.

Immigration affects dialects

The Immigration of speakers of various languages affects the dialects of today.

Dying Dialects

The dialects to the right are constrained to an incredibly small portion of the united states and, thus, dwindling.



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      Siubhan 3 years ago

      Telling a Teacher to "be careful" of their dialect and telling Teachers to impose that on their students is "CULTURAL" "MARXISM" IT'S TIME FOR AMERICAN"S TO "REFUSE"