Sunday, March 1, 2015

Technology and Me. Standard English

Okay. Let's face it. I am a newbie to blogging and tweeting. I just spent hours trying to figure out how to send my tweets  in response to tweets from colleagues.

Eloy, do I remember you telling me I could do it? The friend I thought I had lined up to guide me seems to have gone into hiding. lol. I am now looking at alternative technical tutoring. I have read a few articles but am yet to figure out how to embed them in my blogs or tweets. 

Jonathan and Andre, the NPR article on sounding white/code switching is interesting. I personally practice code switching. I have found it necessary. If I did not try to speak in standard American English as much as possible, very few people would understand what I have to say. I naturally speak fast, add that to my West African (in this case Nigerian-Yoruba accent), also, I grew up with British English it will be interesting to see how you will understand most of what I am saying. What with American English using words like "trunk', "hood", "blinker" etc. in place of British words - "booth", "bonnet", "trafficator" for parts of the automobile. (That is just the simplest part of the confusion) I know that I cannot erase my accent. I do not wish to. That is what make me who I am. It identifies my ethnicity but I also want to communicate with people so I need to make myself understood. When I am amongst people who understand my other "codes" I speak those dialects or languages.

The way I see it, learning to code switch is a skill and the better you are at it the better for communication. I have stated several times that I feel that I am still learning about the American culture and society. I am speaking from my experience. The radio broadcast from NPR or even BBC are listened to by people from other nations. How are those people to understand what is being broadcast if every broadcaster were to talk his dialect or language register. The standard English is difficult enough. Remember that we are trying to build a global community 

I speak, read and write in four languages. I can only communicate with most English speaking people in one i.e. English language. The other three I can only use in the fora where they will be understood. Two of those languages can only be understood mainly in the West African region and only by restricted groups (Yoruba and Pidgin English).
Yoruba - by fifty to fifty millions of ethnic Yorubas in Nigeria and some more in other countries both English and French Speaking West African Nations up to Cote D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) on the West African Coast. Pidgin English (or creole) is spoken mainly in English Speaking West Africa. Both these languages have some dialectical differences depending on their locality. The fourth language is French. I can only communicate in standard French. I would have serious challenges trying to completely understand the regional dialects of French.

In my part of the globe if there was no common or standard language believe me we would be in serious trouble. There is a standard Yoruba language which I speak as well as my dialect (Ijebu). When I speak my dialect my husband who is also Yoruba has no clue what I am talking about. So, we communicate in standard Yoruba and English. The same applies to other people from my country. We have over two hundred languages(200) not dialects let's not discuss that at this time! So  English is the official language of communication in the country. Yes, when one travels to the states and rural towns more of the local languages are spoken but with English and Pidgin English you can communicate or are able to get an interpreter.

In my country, the ability to code switch can open doors for you. If I want to see  an important official. I could be speaking standard English even as I am approaching the security desk. If I switch to Pidgin English or Yoruba (if I discern that the person speaks the language), I would most likely get a warmer reception at the security desk as I would be seen as not trying to be too big for my shoes. However, there are also instances when switching to very frosty tones in standard English has got me out of trouble if the person I am talking to is being very difficult and I find it necessary to change tactics.

I believe the same principle can apply in American society. There is room for standard English and there is room for code switching. How would there be communication between various groups if there was no standard English? Some of us would love to understand more of the different dialects or codes but until we can learn we can only communicate in standard English.

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