Dialect and Education

The English language includes various dialects and accents, and a dialect applies to its vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation characteristics within a specific sociocultural group. Students come to school speaking a wide variety of dialects because they are from diverse cultural or social backgrounds. Should school require all students to use a standard language? Is there any negative impact on a non-standard dialect speaker? These controversial questions have been debated through the years in society and there is no a simple answer to resolve this issue.


According to the BBC article, parents at a Teesside school have been asked to correct their children’s local accents and grammar. Mrs. Walker, an English teacher at Teesside school, explained that she taught kids standard English because “she wanted pupils to avoid being at a disadvantage in later life.” I have to say that I was surprised when I was reading this article because I never realized that “dialect prejudice” exists in English-speaking countries.

When I was young, I was taught to speak Standard American English instead of Chinglish. My elementary school teacher mocked one of my classmates in class simple because she could not speak Standard American English well. My teacher corrected her pronunciation of “orange” several times in class. “Your accent is incorrect”, my teacher said, “‘orange’ should be pronounced as  [‘ɔːrɪndʒ] , not [‘ɔːlɪndʒ]”. I definitely agree with Julia Snell’s viewpoint here: “picking on non-standard voices risks marginalizing some children, and may make them less confident at school.” Unsurprisingly, my classmate told me that “I got intense headache, and would sweat, and my heart would beat rapidly in this class” when I asked her about her feelings.  These distressing symptoms would also lead to negative emotional feelings like lack of interest, a sense of being overwhelmed, and insecurity. As educators, that is definitely not what we want to see.

From an educational point of view, we need to recognize that Standard Englishhelps to keep the communications clear and accurate within different speech communities. Therefore, on the one hand, I suggest that all reading and written work should be done in Standard English. We still need to learn Standard English grammar forms, vocabulary, etc since it is “more logical” and “more grammatical” than other dialects. On the other hand, we should allow speakers to deliver their opinions with a regional or international accent in class discussion.


Almond, D. (2013). “Children and language: Taalk propa? Hadaway wi ye.” The Guardian.

BBC News (2013). “Language plea by Sacred Heart School, Middlesbrough.”BBC News.


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