Language Variety Fair

Teaching and learning about languages and their different variations is one of the most fun and engaging aspects of classroom learning. After all, students of all ages have a keen sense identity, which includes their way of communicating.

Take social dialect, for instance, which is the kind of informal language spoken in our classrooms. A social dialect is spoken by a speech community that is socially isolated. The social dialect spoken by tweens and teens is sometimes referred to as Kiduage or Pubilect. It does not take more than a moment's reflection for any student to realize the difference in communication style used towards their peers and elders. From here, understanding regional dialect, which of course is associated with a geographically isolated speech community, is relatively easy to grasp.

From geographic isolation and resulting regional dialects, it's only a quick journey to accents. An accent is quite similar to a dialect, but with a twist: A dialect is a variety of a certain pronunciation and grammar, while an accent merely describes the way that a particular person or group of people sound. In other words: An accent is about the way somebody pronounces words, not about the words themselves. 

This leaves us with pidgin and creole: Now, a pidgin language develops out of a need for communication: Have students imagine a situation when people with no common language come into contact with each other. How are they likely to communicate? Most likely, people will dig deep into the drawers of their language cabinet and make use of what they have. In the context at hand, this means people will use gestures and a mix of vocabulary and grammar from both languages.

Remember though, that pidgin is a make-shift language with the isolated purpose of make due: Nobody speaks a pidgin as their first language, which of course is where creole comes into the picture. I like to think of it as a pidgin with a long breath: Over a period of several generations, a pidgin language may evolve in vocabulary size and become the mother tongue of a population. When that happens, it is called a creole.

Julia Ryberg