This morning I was asked by a 5th year pupil if “Mrs MacMillan can have more of them books”. What would you do? When handing over the books would you say nothing about the colloquial grammar or would you have offered the ‘correct’ version? As a teacher of English I didn’t let it go: I pointed out that after 5 years of being taught English in the school it was a shame that he hadn’t picked up that it should have been “more of those / these books” (just in case you’re uncertain).
In the TESS (dated 19.9.14) Tom Bennett argues for proper spoken English in classrooms. He states at the end of his article: I was raised in Glasgow. It wasn’t until I came to England that I even realised I possessed an accent and a dialect. I didn’t need to be taught this way of speaking. I did, however, need to be taught formal English. There will always be a lingua franca of those in command. Wishing there wasn’t is pointless.”
This isn’t an appeal for 1984 ‘Newspeak’, or a suggestion such as in ‘Demolition Man’ that swearing should be fined, it’s just an appeal to help the pupils in this school to get on the same level playing field as their competitors. For example, the next time a student in this school answers a question such as “Will you please take off that red hoodie?” with the question “How?” rather than “Why?” answer it by saying “by pulling it over your head” – don’t answer it with the ‘why’ answer. Don’t accept “I seen him down at the shops”, accept “I saw him down at the shops”. Please don’t say “Will youse sit down” etc …At home it’s ok to argue for the Republic of Eyemouth to have its own language: in school it may be a disservice to let grammatical errors go uncorrected.
Regional dialects and Borders slang is fine for transitions- it’s not fine in any of our classrooms. That’s right – innit?