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TESD

TESD Short for Teaching English as a Second Dialect. Also SESD (Standard English as a Second Dialect). The teaching of national or international standard English to speakers of non-standard dialects or varieties, on the principle that the standard will be additional to, rather than a replacement of, the kind of English already used. There are four kinds of non-standard variety: (1) Regional and class dialects, such as Cockney and New Yorkese. (2) Varieties influenced by other languages, such as Hispanic English and Malaysian English. (3) Creoles, such as Krio in Sierra Leone and Jamaican Creole English. (4) Vernaculars with distinctive histories, such as Hawaiian English and Black English. Such varieties have traditionally been regarded as bad or broken English, often by their own speakers as well as others; they tend to be associated with lower-class and/or lower-prestige ethnic, racial, political, and economic groups. Speakers of these varieties have been and often still are assessed at school as deficient in verbal and cognitive skills, as deaf, as learning-disabled, and as educationally or psychologically disturbed, whereas the significant difference lies in a use of language with which their teachers may be unfamiliar and for which they have not been prepared.

Britain, Canada, and the United States

In Britain and Canada, the movement against ethnic and linguistic prejudice has focused in the main on immigrant Afro- and Indo-Caribbean students. In the US, the focus has largely been on students of African-American background, and to a much lesser extent students of Hispanic background. In Canada and the US, some attention has been given to students in Native communities as well. In Britain, an important catalyst for change was a book by Bernard Coard in 1971 (How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Sub-Normal in the British School System), together with rising linguistic nationalism in the Caribbean, and increasing tolerance for and interest in regional and class dialects. In North America, such sociolinguists as William Labov, William Stewart, and J. L. Dillard claimed both social and linguistic validity for these language varieties. Feeling towards their own language usage was often positive within the communities concerned, but parents and teachers also stressed the need for students to succeed in the kind of English (the standard variety) recognized as prestigious and useful by schools, business, and the community at large.

The TESD approach

The approach is based on an acceptance of language variation of all types, as exemplified in Mike Raleigh's The Languages Book (1981) and the Open University packet Every Child's Language (Open University, Milton Keynes, 1985). It is often contrastive, examining the grammar and vocabulary of different varieties, emphasizing variation and situational appropriateness in language, and using culturally and linguistically appropriate materials. Unlike ESL students, ESD students generally have a high comprehension and even production of standard English; similarities and overlaps yield positive progress in the beginning, but ESD students reach humps or plateaux which involve core differences between varieties. For example, in standard English She does wait for the bus, the auxiliary does indicates emphasis; in Trinidadian usage, however, does shows habitual action (she waits every day). Throughout the Caribbean, hand refers to the whole physical area covered by standard hand and arm. In Black English, the ‘invariant be’ denotes habitual or ongoing action (We be playing after school We play after school every day), and it denotes presence (It ain't nobody there There isn't anyone/anybody there).

Features such as different vocabulary and pronunciation are generally recognized, even if they are not understood, but differences in prosodic features, such as intonation and stress patterns, may be neither recognized nor understood. Features of discourse, such as patterns of turn-taking in conversation, are not commonly recognized as legitimate differences among varieties of English. For example, children who speak Black English, Caribbean Creole, or Hawaiian English tend to categorize many questions from adults as ‘scolding’, to which the proper response is silence, while not looking directly at the questioner; in standard English, such questions may indicate adult interest, but always require a verbal response while looking directly at the questioner's face. All such linguistic and social differences may cause confusion for teacher and student, with the result that responses to difficulties may be misinterpreted as misbehaviour or stupidity. Students may also have low motivation; many perceive themselves as already speaking English, and some may not want to identify with mainstream English and its speakers.

General issues

Current issues in TESD are linguistic, social, and political. There continues to be a widespread opposition to overtly anti-racist education and to devoting special attention to groups perceived as educationally and socially marginal. There is also often a lack of awareness of teaching methods that can be helpful with such students. Some educators consider that the particular difficulties for learners who already know some kind of English are unimportant or too subtle; there have always been such problems and in many generations of dialect speakers and immigrants many people have overcome them. Even where teachers and administrators are sympathetic to the principles involved, they may see TESD as legitimating ‘substandard forms’ and delaying students' progress, a view also held by some parents of these students and the community groups with which they identify. Some observers feel that the language issue is used as a smoke-screen to avoid dealing with such larger and more important issues as low socio-economic status, minority racial status, and the need to upgrade academic skills in both teachers and students. See TEACHING ENGLISH, TEFL, TESL, TESOL.

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