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Harnessing Linguistic Variation to Improve Education

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Androula Yiakoumetti

This volume brings together research carried out in a variety of geographic and linguistic contexts including Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and the United States and explores efforts to incorporate linguistic diversity into education and to ‘harness’ this diversity for learners’ benefit. It challenges the largely anachronistic ideology that promotes exclusive use of an educational monolingual standard variety and advocates the use in formal education of aboriginal/indigenous languages, minority languages, nonstandard varieties and contact languages.
The contributors examine both historical and current practices for including linguistic diversity in education by considering specific bidialectal, bilingual and multilingual educational initiatives. The different geographical and linguistic settings covered in the volume are linked together by a unifying theme: linguistic diversity exists all over the world, but it is very rarely utilized effectively for the benefit of students. When it is used, whether in isolated studies or through governmental initiatives, the research findings point systematically to the many educational advantages experienced by linguistically-diverse students. This book will be of interest to teachers and language practitioners, as well as to students and scholars of language and education.

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Androula Yiakoumetti - 12 The Dangers of Dialects: Debunking (or Substantiating) the Myths 293

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Androula Yiakoumetti 12 The Dangers of Dialects: Debunking (or Substantiating) the Myths Introduction Dialectal variation has been in the research spotlight for several decades. Researchers agree that dialectal diversity is natural and widespread. They argue in favour of linguistic equality and assert that nonstandard dialects are just as viable means of communication as standard varieties. However, research has also shown that, across the broader population, people do not judge nonstandard and standard varieties to be equal: most view dia- lects as inferior and, consequently, also view dialect speakers as somehow inferior to standard speakers. These views persist in spite of researchers’ best ef forts to demonstrate the structural regularity and invaluable socio- linguistic functions of dialects. Since many of the misinformed views that surround dialectal variation have been repeatedly addressed, it might seem trite to revisit the issue. However, the issue is a dynamic and perennial one in which new elements are constantly surfacing: dialectal variation af fects us all and plays a significant role in the day-to-day interactions, educational attainment and professional advancement of many dialect speakers. It is for this reason that the debate on the role of dialects (with particular reference to the benefits and dangers associated with their use) shows no sign of abating. Drawing on research carried out worldwide since the 1960s, the present chapter aims to debunk (or substantiate) the popular views that have formed as a consequence of concomitant use of dialect and standard in dialectally- diverse communities. The discussion focusses on regional...

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