Friday, May 20, 2011

Pidgin English- Helpful or harmful?

This is always a big debate in the teachers' room when you get some pragmatic teachers with ingrained habits who swear that students won't understand enough otherwise and the teachers who base their style on theories who swear that we should only provide authentic English.

I can see both sides of the argument although I never seem to agree with the way that it is being argued.  Intuitively, I believe that pidgin English is probably not doing the harm that people would have you believe.  Children have learner languages through which they develop on the way to fluency in the first language.  They have no issues with these intermediate steps becoming fossilized.  If you think of it that way, as a tool on the way to more correct discourse, I think the only danger is the teacher developing habits that they cannot break when the students are ready to develop beyond it.

I also believe that although it is not doing damage, it is probably a much more efficient use of classroom time to provide exposure to the entire language as soon as possible.  Grading the language should be done not through unnatural speed or grammatical simplification but through simplification of the idea.  If you keep the idea simple, you can make simple sentences that are correct and convey most of what you say.  It is simply up to the teacher's skill in conveying ideas at the right level for the student.

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