Why there is ‘nowt’ wrong with teaching children to speak proper English

Pete Turner
Yahoo! Contributor Network8 February 2013
Why there is ‘nowt’ wrong with teaching children to speak proper English

Children at Sacred Heart Primary School in Middlesbrough will be corrected on their Teesside accents in an effort to teach them 'standard English', it has emerged.

The children in the North-East town will be targeted early to stop their language from becoming too informal when it is not appropriate. Though the article highlights Northern phrases like 'nowt' and 'yous', it says nothing of the dialect and street slang of the youth in Southern England.

As a teacher in a college full of 16-19 year old students, I am consistently frustrated by some of these young people's inability to change their tone, language and dialect for the classroom.

While Northern children most likely get their dialects from their parents and extended families, it seems that Southern kids are more likely to pick up their slang and their accents from film, TV and music, with many talking similarly to the grime artists whose music videos they often watch online.

The way that many young people talk in London seems to have seeped into the Home Counties and beyond and at the risk of sounding like a complete snob, it is a slightly strange and surreal trend.

When a student in my class says 'safe' to me instead of thank you, I cringe and remind them that the words they are looking for are 'thank you'. When they tell me to 'allow it' if they are doing something they should not be, I remind them that we are in a lesson and that, no, I will not 'allow it' as they say.

I have a simple desire to teach children and young adults that there is a time and a place for talking how they want to talk. I do not let them swear in my classes so why would I let them use any of the other language they use with their friends out in the streets?

As teachers, it is essential that we at least try to give students the best chance of fitting into the adult world of work that we possibly can. Literacy and communication are two of the most fundamental skills employers are looking for in prospective employees and in order to give our youngsters the best chance of gaining employment, we must be sure they know that there is a time and a place for street slang.

Of course there is some debate over what is 'proper' English these days and we certainly do not want to stamp out regional dialects but there must be a formal way of communicating that we can agree on.

Children are increasingly using text messaging, email and social media to communicate and it is completely understandable that they will shorten words and have their own ways of communicating that will set them apart from an older generation perhaps.

However this must not slip into the classroom or the workplace and we must be strict in ensuring that our children do learn the difference between informal and formal language and in which situations each is appropriate.

It is not just Northern children at risk of being discriminated against because of the way they talk but all of Britain's youth if they succumb to using too much language of the street at the wrong place and the wrong time.

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