Anne Curzan’s article “Says Who” discusses some interesting points about grammatical pedagogy. I learned grammar as a set of rules to memorize and obey. I felt that I wrote well with them and when I made mistakes, my teachers would consistently point them out. Each mistake added a new rule to my growing repertoire. My writing developed parallel with the mastery of new Standard English rules. However, my intellect did not develop because I was never allowed to question the rules. Curzan’s approach to grading students’ papers with a circle rather than a harsh cross out seems to be an effective way to create a teachable moment and open the gates for discussion. Discussion and questioning will fuel the interest in learning the reasoning behind grammatical rules and further develop the English language. It also empowers people to make choices and understand when and why to use Standard English, especially when considering one’s audience.
Curzan further discusses home language and its place in the spectrum of the English language. Home languages represent dialects; these dialects may be far from the standard. This does not mean we should dismiss their place or their power. For example, a double negative can be an effective way to add strength and certainty to a statement. Maintaining the place for home language in the English language is important. This article altered my perspective on words like ain’t which I had previously assumed were a sign of ignorance. It meshes well with the University’s policies on diversity and improves the understanding of the mixture of people from different places and backgrounds.
Home language contributes to who a person is and can hold great power for a community. It is a great avenue to link different cultures and show differences knowing that each person’s home language is a part of their identity but does not signify ignorance or illiteracy. Furthermore, Curzan mentions that people whose home languages stray from the standard, can still learn to write in the standard in order to effectively communicate through written word. Curzan compares Standard English to the units of measure that help scientists communicate results in an effective and efficient manner.
I am currently tutoring an international student from Korea. Our first session this past week was interesting as I was able to see firsthand where English and Korean languages did and did not mesh. His home language had the power of different words to which there was no direct translation in English. It presented a challenge for him because he thinks in Korean and then translates into English. He may have felt like he had to dismiss his home language and adapt to the Standard English, but Curzan affirms that no one should have to sacrifices his background influences in order to learn a new set of rules. Armed with this new approach I will be able to encourage his learning while also encouraging him to retain his home language and recognize that it too has a place in the English language.
His ideas were well developed and mature but the problem was in his delivery. The importance of a standard in order to effectively communicate is huge. Curzan presents a logical approach to questioning, challenging, and implementing grammar rules in order to create a language that reflects grammar for what it is rather than an tedious and forced list of memorized rules. This approach to grammar will hopefully help this particular student in challenging English grammar and learning a more effective way to communicate his ideas effectively.