Language, Power, and Rhetorical Choice

by Anna O’Sullivan

There has been a long debate over how appropriate code meshing and code switching is in academic and professional settings. The abundant number of overlapping dialects within these settings cause friction between those who feel there is no exception to stray from standard English and those who feel they should not have to meet these “standards”. After reviewing multiple sources arguing opposing viewpoints, I ask, in what context should code meshing and switching be appropriate in academic and professional settings and in what context should they not? I feel that there are too many factors that play into why an individual or group would use code switching in the first place to be able to label it under something so general as appropriate or inappropriate. Through this blog post I will discuss to the blogosphere why code switching is hard to generalize as appropriate or inappropriate in academic and professional situations.   

Numerous authors agree that code switching and meshing should be normalized to object against any literary prejudice due to different racial and cultural backgrounds. Vershawn Ashanti Young in Should Writers Use They Own English, has strong opinions on accepting code switching and meshing as the new standard of English. He believes that writers should be able to express themselves with their vernaculars and cultural dialects no matter the academic context. This stems from John Vance’s viewpoint in journal article, Code-Meshing Meshed Codes: Some Complications and Possibilities. He states that “non-standard” dialects- and, further, has a lot more to do with one’s (perceived) skin color than one’s manner of speaking and writing.” (Vance 282). Which then relates back to Young’s claim “ when folks don’t get no jobs or get fired or whatever cuz they talk and write Asian or black or with an Appalachian accent or sound like whatever ain’t the status quo.” (110). From reading this I can agree that dialects should not get in the way of someone’s profession or academic progression. Anyones cultural background should not put them at a disadvantage because their dialect differs from the “standard English”. I feel there should be no “standard english” definition, I do however believe there are certain degrees of generalized communication that educational and workplace settings need to implement. 

Stanley Fish in What Should Colleges Teach?, finds no exception for code meshing and switching and feels standard English is the only appropriate style of writing in any academic and professional setting. I found myself agreeing more with Young in that code meshing should be normalized in the future of literature; however, I also felt that there was some underlying solution in Fish’s opposing argument. Fish expresses his opinion against this when he states “It is because our students come to us unable to write clean English sentences..” (What Should Colleges Teach 1). I question this statement because I am unable to pinpoint exactly what a clean English sentence is in a classroom or workplace that has a diverse group of people. Students and employees coming from different cultural backgrounds have various forms of what a “clean English sentence” means. However, I do see the reality of a situation that in these settings there is a need for a general dialect in order to have a fluidity in communication. Young suggests teaching the basic understanding of what he considered formal writing through using the work of famous authors  (What Should Colleges Teach 1). The truth of the situation is that there needs to be a ground level of understanding each other linguistically. This can make teaching a basic level of “standardized english”  useful because it provides a ground level of communication in the educational or professional setting. While I disagree that only a white vernacular should be the communication standard, educational systems should implement a course of inclusive basic dialect.  A class that teaches general punctuation and literary rules like sentence structure and more while also incorporating lessons on different dialects so every student can understand their peers’ vernaculars while also sharing one between them.  If we were just to mesh cultural dialects, it could lead to students not of a certain vernacular to feel ok saying offensive terms only appropriate in a particular culture. For example, a white student feeling like they can use the N- word if they are taught to use African American vernaculars within their classroom. This shows that in some instances the free use of code meshing and switching is not appropriate in academia. Therefore, a basic dialect or “standard” form of communication along with the knowledge of other cultural dialects might be beneficial to students and employees. Learning about different cultural dialects and vernaculars while also having a common form of communication would allow general respect and fluid conversations. 

We must take into account the growing diversity in education and professional settings and what this means for the communication level within these settings. The Conference on College Composition and Communication created a position statement on second language writing and multilingual writers. This statement incorporates valid arguments on how teachers and writing program administrators should go about multilingual students. They urge them to “recognize and support multilingual writers’ practices of integrating their unique linguistic and cultural resources into writing both in classrooms and at the level of the writing program.” (CCCC part 1). I agree strongly with this claim and find that multilingual writers and students make up for an important part of the world of literature. To provide support for these multilingual students, teachers should allow them to use footnotes in assignments indicating that they know there is a sentence fragment being broken. As mentioned before, in order to have a fluid communication within classrooms there has to be a general dialect within academia. However, those who learned English as a secondary language should be able to feel comfortable in telling their professors when they need to code mesh or switch to get their point across. Cultural dialect has nothing to do with knowledge and intelligence on a subject therefore, should not hinder the outcome of a students performance. Code meshing should be freely used and expressed socially in any setting but in order for general communication to be passed within educational and professional settings there needs to be a general dialect to create a common understanding between teachers, employers and students. 

With considering all opposing viewpoints over code meshing and switching, I feel that in order to claim it appropriate or inappropriate multiple factors must be considered. From Vershawn Young and John Vances’ viewpoints, racial and cultural backgrounds should not hinder any students or employees’ progression in their academic or professional settings. In order to fully adhere to this the Conference on College Composition and Communications urgency to support these multilingual writers must be shown due to the fact that these multilingual writers make up an important part in the world of literature. While I do not fully agree with Fish’s statement on “clean English”, I am able to understand that there must be a common ground of communication within these settings in order to have fluidity in communication with one another. Therefore, I feel code meshing and switching should be taught in courses for students of all cultural backgrounds to understand their peers’ dialects. These courses should also teach a general form of literary procedures so that students have an equal opportunity to contribute their knowledge in these settings without feeling unfair confinement from a “standardized english”. The white vernaculars “standard english” that is normalized today puts diverse students from various cultural backgrounds at a disadvantage and should be remodeled into a more diverse version of english. This English should be inclusive to all dialects and vernaculars therefore, making code meshing and switching a more familiarized concept of communication. 

 

Work Cited 

“CCCC Statement on Second Language Writing and Multilingual Writers.” Conference on College Composition and Communication, 12 June 2020, https://cccc.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/secondlangwriting. 

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” The New York Times , 7 Sept. 2009. 

Vance, John. “Code-Meshing Meshed Codes: Some Complications and Possibilities.” JAC, vol. 29, no. 1/2, JAC, 2009, pp. 281–84, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20866901.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 110–117., https://doi.org/10.17077/2168-569x.1095.

The Past, Present, and Future of LGBTQ+ Code Meshing: Who Does it Belong to?

by Alexa Schoettelkotte

I would like to start off by setting my intentions for this post. My intentions are to make the reader critically think about a recent issue in society and reflect on it. I want the reader to take in the information and apply it to their own knowledge on the subject and come to their own conclusions on what they believe should be done. With that being said, at the very end of the post, I will be doing the same exact thing. I will be giving my opinion on the topic and talking about how I think the problem can be remedied. I would also like to note that I will be using the term “appropriation” not in a negative or accusatory way but in the context of its definition. With all of this in mind, today I will be discussing the use of code meshing in the LGBTQ+ community and who it belongs to. Vershawn Ashanti Young, an advocate for code meshing in both academic and professional settings, defines code meshing by saying that it “blend[s] dialects, international languages, local idioms, chat-room lingo, and the rhetorical styles of various ethnic and cultural groups in both formal and informal speech acts” (114). In order to determine who deserves the right to police words that are commonplace in the LGBTQ+ community, we must examine the past, present, and future in relation to code meshing.

People say that the past is important as it is a time that we must learn and extract knowledge from, and Polari is no exception. Polari is “playful, quick and clever – a constantly evolving language of fast put-downs, ironic self-parody and theatrical exaggeration” that was often used by gay men and lesbians as a way to communicate with each other without the fear of being oppressed between the 1900s-1970s (Baker 1-2).  Polari is rather unique as “…it emerged as the result of a number of converging subcultures over many decades” (Baker 19); some of those subcultures include theatre speak, Romani, Jewish languages, 1960s drug culture, prostitution, etc. (Baker 31-35). With that said, Polari became exceptionally popularized in the UK by a radio series that ran from 1964 to 1969 called Round the Horne which featured two male, “camp, out-of-work actors” (Baker 1), Julian and Sandy, who, each week, would start a new business where they would attempt to sell a service or good to the character Kenneth Horne. 

During the radio series, Julian and Sandy would speak in broken Polari to Mr. Horne, a straight man (Baker 86). At the beginning of the series, Mr. Horne seems to be ignorant in regards to the language and its words, but throughout the series, he begins to pick up on the meanings of Polari’s words through his interactions with Julian and Sandy. Through the use of this secret language, the series was able to fly under the radar as homosexuality was not legalized in the UK until 1967 (“Sexuality 20th Century”). In the modern-day, Polari is practically non-existent with only those who utilized it in the 1960s speaking it from time to time. With that said, Baker claims that aspects of the (almost) dead language can still be seen in society to this day. He notes that “some of these surviving words are also used by (or initially derived from) American gay subcultures – butch, camp, cruise and trade” (124-125). Another example of a word that is still utilized to this day is the word “drag” which is extremely common in not only the LGBTQ+ community but society as a whole (Baker 173). This is likely due to the skyrocketing popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race in which drag queens compete to determine who is the best of the best. Another word that is no longer limited to the community is the use of the word “girl” as a “term of address” (Baker 176). In the LGBTQ+ community, the word would be used regardless of a person’s gender. As the word has become accepted by the larger society, however, it should be noted that cisgender heterosexual men are typically not referred to as “girl.” By taking a look at the past it can be reasoned that we have a greater understanding of the future of code meshing in the LGBTQ+ community.

The present use of code meshing in the LGBTQ+ community is what inspired this post, however, we will have to dip a little bit into the past in order to understand how we got here. As of recent, attention has been drawn onto the mass amount of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) that can be found in the LGBTQ+ community. This promotes the question as to why the LGBTQ+ community is often found appropriating AAVE. With very little research, it can be found that the majority, but not all, of the words and phrases used by the community stem from people who are queer/transgender and black. Davis claims that some of the words that have been ingrained in the LGBTQ+ community come from as far back as the Harlem Renaissance. She explains that during this time, drag balls were exceptionally popular; these balls were mostly filled with African American and Latinx members of the LGBTQ+ community where they were free to express themselves without fear of homophobia. Davis explains that this is where words such as “‘…throw shade,’ ‘read,’ ‘vogue,’ ‘dip’ and ‘slay..’” developed (15). This is not just a thing of the past though, the LGBTQ+ community continues to appropriate words from the black, transgender/queer community to this very day. This occurs through the use of “popular platforms like RuPaul’s Drag Race, Pose, Legendary, Queer Eye, and celebrities like Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and even Justin Bieber [who] have been instrumental in mainstreaming Black gay and queer language” (Davis 16). Through the use of thoroughly investigating the present, we can determine how to take action in the future.

With all of this information it raises the question of who owns these words and what should the future of code meshing in the LGBTQ+ community look like? I will first pose a few questions for the reader to think about themselves and then I will express my thoughts on the topic. To start, Polari can be considered the ultimate code mesh with words stemming from a multitude of different cultures. It also tells the story of an oppressed minority who were forced to create their own language in order to survive. With both of those things in mind, does the LGBTQ+ community have the right to police who speaks words that stem from Polari? Next, AAVE and the LGBTQ+ community is riddled with words created by black, queer/transgender folks. These words represent their unique experience of being both queer/transgender and black. It should be noted that the black, LGBTQ+ community has and still continues to face discrimination at the hands of the African American and LGBTQ+ community alike. Considering that, who owns the words and phrases created by the black, queer/transgender community? With all of these questions asked, I will now express my opinions on the matter. Language is forever evolving and changing as we as humans endure new experiences and emotions. Most (if not all) languages are just a melting pot of other languages and cultures. According to Bernoussi “roughly 30% of the English language [has] either French or Latin origins.” This doesn’t account for the countless other languages that English has stolen words from. Bernoussi goes on to list the words “wanderlust,” “detour,” “hotel,” “cookie,” and “safari” as words that many Americans are unaware of being rooted in a different language. “Cookie,” for example, is derived “…from the dutch word koekie” (Bernoussi). In theory, these same attributes can then be applied to AAVE and the LGBTQ+ community. With that said, it should also be taken into consideration that these communities are unique in that both of their languages are derived from a need to protect themselves from outsiders who wish them harm. Although at the times of creation these were necessary, the languages are now acting as barriers that, rather than protect, are dividing people. In a way, the gatekeeping of words is preventing the disintegration of negative prejudices. Now does this mean that I think that people should be allowed to say slurs that don’t apply to them or start speaking purely in a dialect that they did not grow up around or are not a part of? Absolutely not. There must be some limits out of respect for others and what they have gone through. However, I see no problem with people code meshing with the use of words from other dialects/cultures.

Based on everything that has been discussed, I have come up with a set of five rules that I believe everyone should follow when code meshing. Number one: the person must not use the word in a derogatory way with the intent of hurting/insulting the native speakers. Number two: the person must have an understanding of the origins and true definition of the word. Number three: the person must be open to feedback from the particular group where the word stems and back away if they are told that they have overstepped their bounds. Number four: people should not say slurs that do not apply to them. Number five: people should not try to completely convert the way they speak into someone else’s dialect; they should simply code mesh with their native dialect/dialect that applies to their communit(ies). If everyone were to follow these simple rules then we could create a society with stronger bonds and deeper understandings of each other. Through the use of observing the evolution of LGBTQ+ code meshing in the past and present, one is able to create their own opinions on code meshing as a whole and how it should be addressed and/or utilized in the future.

Works cited

Baker, Paul. Polari – The Lost Language of Gay Men: The Lost Language of Gay MenTaylor and Francis, 2004. LGBTQ+ Source, Accessed 31 Oct. 2021. 

Bernoussi, Driss. “English Words Borrowed from Other Languages: ICLS: International Center for Language Studies: Washington D.C.” ICLS, 17 July 2021, https://www.icls.edu/ english-words-borrowed-from-other-languages/. 

Davis, Chloe O. “The Blackness of Queer Vernacular.” Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, vol. 28, no. 5, Sept. 2021, pp. 14–16. EBSCOhost, search-ebscohost-com.nuncio.cofc. edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=qth&AN=152303208&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Greene, Hugh, director. JULIAN & SANDY – Rentachap. YouTube, BBC Radio, 1965, https://youtu.be/-xKYNvI_LbY. Accessed 6 Nov. 2021.

“Sexuality 20th Century.” UK Parliament, https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/ transformingsociety/private-lives/relationships/overview/sexuality20thcentury/. 

​​Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 110–117., https://doi.org/10.17077/2168-569x.1095. 

 

The Importance of Writing How We Speak

by Jamie Wirth

Early on in my academic education I was taught the proper language to write and talk to others. I had to make sure I always wrote in MLA format, I had to capitalize proper nouns, and I learned how to correctly use punctuation in my writing in order for my work to be deemed acceptable by others. Throughout this learning process, I was never asked how I wanted to convey my own opinions. When writing to adults or people in positions of authority it was considered improper to use abbreviations or slang, as it could be interpreted as uneducated. But often in positions like these I was left with a feeling of discomfort as I would be in a constant battle of making sure I was showing them my true personality, but only enough so that my writing would not be interpreted as informal. While there may be some instances where writing should remain formal, people should be both taught and allowed to write more similar to the way they speak.

Code meshing allows for writers to clearly get their point across in language their readers will understand, as they create a sense of comfortable conversation and familiarity with readers. Code meshing, explained by Vershan Ashwanti Young in his piece Should Writers Use They Own English? discusses how “Code meshing blend dialects, international languages, local idioms, chat-room lingo, and the rhetorical styles of various ethnic and cultural groups in both formal and informal speech acts”. Personally, using informal language in this explanation makes it very easy for a student reader like myself to understand this uncommon use of rhetoric. Young explains how he believes that one’s writing style should reflect who they are as a person, therefore sound like how they would actually speak. Currently typing this paper, Google Docs is continually underlying aspects of Young’s writing, signifying that the grammar is wrong. But what if society could accept that maybe the grammar isn’t wrong, but rather one’s perception of informality is? The informal tone of Young’s piece helps me to better understand his point of view and makes me realize how much of society and education is conditioned to write in a “proper” format because it will be interpreted better by others. Yet, Young’s informal diction did just that for me, and made it easier for me to relate. In addition to the informal writing style Young displays throughout his piece, Young also touches upon the concept of Black English, which is more specific and comes with higher stakes than more general informality. This is partially a result of, along with other accents and language, that “proper” English is unfortunately seen as the most educated and common language that should be spoken nationwide, or even globally. Nonetheless, writing allows others to creatively express their opinions and share what they believe others would experience.  

Being taught to write as we speak could help expand one’s diction to use in one’s everyday vocabulary, so people would not feel the need to have a distinction between their learned writing skills and conversational skills. While it is important to learn the basics of language and writing and sentence structure “quotation marks can indicate reported speech, and capitals can indicate proper nouns, but we gain a sense of the writer’s personality when they’re also available for use as “scare quotes” and Ironic Capitals” (McCulloch)”.  Scarce quotes are imperative to informal writing as they convey an ironic or skeptical stance toward the word or phrase they’re around. This “improper” diction requires the reader to read between the lines and get a better understanding of the author’s personality and writing style. One’s ability to write comprehensively does not mean that when they write what they speak their writing abilities will diminish. Allowing one to write how they talk may even help one explore their sense of self which they can include to make their writing better.

An alternative form of changing language, code switching, can often have a toxic impact mentally, as it sparks a feeling of peer pressure. Code switching is the process of shifting from one form of language to another, and it will often change depending on one’s social setting. People often worry about fitting in with others and “very often, people code-switch — both consciously and unconsciously — to act or talk more like those around them”(Thompson). If students are taught at an early age to write differently than they speak to conform with social norms, they may begin to lose their sense of identity. This is extremely applicable in everyday life as “A speaker’s code-switching corresponds to his/her previous exposure through social networks, and personal attitudes” (Liu). This exemplifies how one’s surroundings can easily pressure them into code switching in order for them to feel accepted in an environment that may make them feel self conscious, and is arguably the most influential impact of code switching. This is evident in the Huffpost article that states “An immigrant 4-year-old boy from Poland (or China) who just moved to St. Louis is more likely to speak perfect English and love baseball within a year because he wants to fit in with the other kids” (Hoffman). This models the psychological ideal of conformity which is when people change their speech, attitudes, actions etc in order to match others around them in order for them to feel included. This yearning of a desire for inclusivity will encourage not only young children but people of all ages to possibly use more informal language in their daily vocabulary if other people they look up to or hangout with use slang frequently. Fearing that they won’t fit in and be accepted, that person will adopt commonly used slang words, with hopes that they will not be seen as different or as an outcast by others. 

I have personally seen first hand how easy it is to utilize code switching in my daily vocabulary. After coming to College of Charleston, many of the friends I have made here are from the South, so naturally I began to incorporate their vocabulary into my own. When hanging out with my friends at school, I began to notice when I was with them, I began using “y’all” more when talking to them as a group. Yet, when I came home for fall break and spent more time with my family and friends, I quickly switched my vocabulary back to “you guys” in order to fit in with the vocabulary used around me. While code-switching I personally did not feel pressured by others to change my vocabulary with fears that I would not be accepted, however, changing my word choice allowed me to feel more comfortable in my surroundings.  

However, code switching is still necessary in many aspects of life in order to prove professionalism, education and economic status to others. The way one articulates is very important in a professional setting. Stanley Fish mentions this topic in regards to code switching as he adds “You’re not going to be able to change the world if you are not equipped with the tools that speak to its present condition” (Fish). If someone is running for a government office or promotion, they will not be taken seriously if they write speeches or submit applications using slang or wording others may not understand. For voters in rural areas a politician may gear his speech towards farmers using words like “folks” and in urban areas like Spanish Harlem, New York City, you may interject Spanglish (a hybrid of Spanish and English) to appeal to and connect with your audience. While being allowed to write informally,  similar to how you speak,  is applicable for many situations, there are still distinctions in both the business and professional sense that involve the need for code switching. Similarly, writing is often perfected in higher education in order for the students to be successful in life. This has been proven as a necessity as “Freshmen estimate that they write about 25 hours each week, and most believe that they arrived on their campus with college-level writing skills fully formed… students’ notions about writing may not match professors’ expectations…” (The Chronicle of Higher Education). Students may need this push to ensure that their writing is mature enough to pursue their future careers. 

Although formal writing is applicable in some circumstances, people should not be looked down upon when writing similar to how they speak. Writing that reflects one’s speech allows for readers to see the author’s true tone and personality, and can often help them better express themselves and their viewpoint. Readers or an audience may feel more connected and feel they share similar experiences with an author or orator if they feel similar to them. Code-switching can  also be persuasive and induce those with low self esteem or feelings of inadequacy  to conform to those around them in order to feel that they fit in.  This may be detrimental to those in the audience if they feel they must conform to others because of a low sense of self . In both writing and speaking, there is a place for code-switching and code meshing, but it is the author’s choice to identify which method is to their advantage, whether it be to gain employment, recruit votes, persuade others  or to just fit in. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited:

The Chronicle of Higher Education. 21 Mar. 2014, www.chronicle.com/article/students-come-to-college-thinking-theyve-mastered-writing/?cid2=gen_login_refresh. Accessed 31 Oct. 2021.

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” New York Times, Sept. 2009, lms.cofc.edu/d2l/le/content/267890/viewContent/3607465/View. Accessed 31 Oct. 2021.

Hoffman, Auren. “You Think for Yourself but You Act like Your Friends (on

     Homophily).” Huffpost, Nov. 2011, www.huffpost.com/entry/

     you-think-for-yourself-bu_b_182605. Accessed 4 Nov. 2021.

Liu, Hong. “A Socio-Cognitive Approach to Code-Switching: From the Perspective of a Dynamic Usage-based Account of Language.” EBSCOhost, Nov. 2020, web-p-ebscohost-com.nuncio.cofc.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=5&sid=1467d77e-2543-46f4-9043-f1b0aa4a5b65%40redis&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=146730653&db=a2h. Accessed 31 Oct. 2021.

McCulloch, Gretchen. “We Learned to Write the Way We Talk.” New York Times, Dec. 2019, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/27/opinion/sunday/internet-writing-text-emotion.html. Accessed 31 Oct. 2021.

Thompson, Matt. “Five Reasons Why People Code-Switch.” NPR, Apr. 2013, www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/04/13/177126294/five-reasons-why-people-code-switch. Accessed 31 Oct. 2021.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, lms.cofc.edu/d2l/le/content/267890/viewContent/3488970/View. Accessed 31 Oct. 2021.

Implementation of Code-Meshing in the Classroom

by Sophia Brown

The students of today’s classrooms come from varying backgrounds with a mixture of different languages and dialects. Unfortunately, teachers and the subsequent education system do not always take this fact into consideration when it comes to learning. As a result, many students are forced to master material from a curriculum that does not cater to their linguistic and cultural  diversity. Such a lack of inclusivity inevitably leads students to feel as though their language is “incorrect” and does not belong in an educational environment. Instead of simply forcing learners to comply with the rigidity of monolingualism, it is important that teachers and educators actively implement strategies to promote the use of an assortment of languages and dialects. In other words, teachers should encourage the concept of code-meshing, defined by author Vershawn Ashanti Young as the mixing of “dialects, international languages, local idioms, chat-room lingo, and the rhetorical styles of various ethnic and cultural groups in both formal and informal speech acts” (114). These strategies contribute not only to the general enrichment of students’ educational experiences, but also encourage students to embrace their unique language and most natural way of speaking. Through the application of multiple methods of linguistic diversity in schools, teachers can directly invite the use of multiple languages in the classroom. In this blog post, I will examine the implementation of multilingual code-meshing in specifically early education via a three-pronged approach: reading activities, writing techniques, and affirmation of students’ languages. 

To encourage code-meshing in classrooms, it is vital that teachers take an active role in mixing different languages during learning experiences, especially through reading exercises. By incorporating multiple languages during readings, teachers are able to teach their young students comprehension skills that go beyond the English language. For instance, a study titled “Code-Meshing and Writing Instruction in Multilingual Classrooms” notes the significance of providing readings to students that mix languages. This can be accomplished through the usage of bilingual picture books, such as books that involve both Spanish and English. Books like these are especially effective during class read-alouds, as it encourages students to think critically about language. Ultimately, having books in the classroom that incorporate multiple languages is beneficial because it can help students learn about various concepts involved in reading, such as composition, syntax, and semantics (164). Similarly, in an academic journal that examines code-meshing methods used by instructors in early and higher education, a teacher by the name of Tom emphasizes the importance of using texts that are “linguistically and culturally relevant” in his instruction (Michael-Luna and Canagarajah 61). He uses books that are primarily in English, but include Spanish dialogue and vocabulary. In particular, he makes sure to select books that contain narrative elements that both his Spanish-speaking students and English-speaking students are familiar with. By selecting multilingual texts, Tom’s students are able to learn themes, structure, rhetoric, and grammar that are present in multiple languages and cultures. In this way, readings that include two or more languages cater to a variety of students and avoid conforming to monolingualism. Students’ reading skills are greatly enhanced because children have an opportunity to learn about the beauty of other ways of speaking and their attached cultures rather than exclusively learning about the rules of standard English.

Additionally, code-meshing can also be achieved through writing exercises in the classroom. Using multi-language strategies in writing is effective because it puts learning into practice and enables students to express themselves via code-meshing. In the previously mentioned source “Code-Meshing and Writing Instruction in Multilingual Classrooms,” the authors discuss an example involving a fourth grade bilingual class. The students were tasked with creating stories that followed a similar form to the text Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask: A Bilingual Cuento, a children’s story that involves both Spanish and English narration. The students mixed English and Spanish vocabulary in their writings, including entire sentences in Spanish or simply replacing certain English words with Spanish (e.g., “shouted el representador) (162-164). Writing activities like these that prompt students to utilize more than one language are valuable in learning because they encourage students to synthesize and piece together meaningful sentences that blend different ways of speaking and writing. This positively challenges the students that speak the dominant language while allowing linguistically diverse students to express themselves. Additionally, techniques that involve using writing models to create sentences have proven to be helpful to students in putting their multilingual knowledge into practice. Authors S. Michael-Luna and A. Suresh Canagarajah’s article provides a real-life scenario in which students used a premade sentence that the teacher had written, but were prompted to substitute Spanish vocabulary into the wording. For example, students in the class completed the English fragment “Our earth gives us…” with supplied Spanish words such as arboles (trees) or agua (water). This particular activity proved to be useful to students in the long run, with students scoring high in both English and Spanish reading level evaluations. Writing activities that integrate code-meshing serve a dual purpose in that they allow students to achieve a level of comprehension in numerous languages while supporting meaningful expression.

Finally, affirming students in their usage of multiple languages or dialects helps to reinforce the implementation of code-meshing in classrooms. Instead of critically analyzing and correcting the language of students, it is important to highlight the significance of encouraging students to comfortably express themselves through their natural manner of speaking. In turn, this allows students to avoid feeling as though their language or dialect is subordinate to the dominant language. Authors Alice Y. Lee and Lara J. Handsfield offer an excellent perspective on this topic when they refer to the usage of code-meshing as “hidden gems” in students’ writing rather than mistakes to fix (165). These should be things that teachers should celebrate with students, as they display a level of linguistic and cultural understanding specific to the student’s background and knowledge. An example of a “hidden gem” also discussed by Lee and Handsfield is the usage of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) by a student named Jacobi. In this case, Jacobi’s teacher transcribed his verbal message onto a Mother’s Day card that included standard English and AAVE (e.g., “My mom is the prettiest when she smile” and “My mom is funniest when she laugh”). Instead of correcting these rhetorical choices, Jacobi’s teacher chose to transcribe the messages onto the card as said by Jacobi in his code-meshed speech because AAVE is a part of his linguistic identity (161-162). Teachers should follow this example, as it is essential to refrain from erasing the distinct, unique way that children communicate. It is imperative that students should feel free to express themselves in the way that they find to be most natural.

Though the benefits of learning multiple languages and code-meshing in early education are evident, some argue that exposure to other languages at a young age could be potentially confusing. The belief in this debate is that when children learn a secondary language, they will begin to swap words from their primary language and secondary language while communicating. This is a concern for many parents because they feel that this is disorienting for their children and for others. However, it is important to refrain from labeling this mixing of languages as being “confused”; rather, we must recognize that this intertwining of languages is simply code-meshing (Byers-Heinlein and Lew-Williams). Additionally, the idea that acquiring two or more languages hinders communication during early development is incorrect. According to Montreal Children’s Hospital, there is “no proof that young children who learn two languages at the same time get mixed up between the two” and that children will “adapt according to the language spoken by the person with whom they’re interacting and will know how to make the distinction between the two languages” (“Can a Young Child Learn Two Languages at the Same Time?”). From this information, it can be concluded that having knowledge of multiple languages is ultimately beneficial and that code-meshing is not a disturbance to a child’s linguistic growth.

In summary, the concept of code-meshing should be the new status quo in educational environments. With an array of diverse backgrounds and languages, it is only natural that teachers should make an effort to support and enable code-meshing in educational settings. Through strategies like writing activities, readings, and affirming students in their language usage, students are able to use code-meshing effectively and without the restraints of standardized English or monolingualism. Above all, it is crucial to recognize that code-meshing is a productive approach to language in educational environments as opposed to restricting students to one traditional manner of speaking. Code-meshing goes beyond simply gaining knowledge of languages and their subsequent composition; rather, it is the acceptance and integration of one’s identity in the context of communication.

 

Works Cited 

Byers-Heinlein, Krista, and Casey Lew-Williams. “Bilingualism in the Early Years: What the Science Says.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6168212/. Accessed 5 November 2021.

“Can a Young Child Learn Two Languages at the Same Time?” Montreal Children’s Hospital, The Montreal Children’s Hospital, https://www.thechildren.com/health-info/conditions-and-illnesses/can-young-child-learn-two-languages-same-time. Accessed 5 November 2021.

Lee, Alice Y., and Lara J. Handsfield. “Code-Meshing and Writing Instruction in Multilingual Classrooms.” The Reading Teacher, International Literacy Association, 2018, https://www.una.edu/education/educator-preparation/praxis-resources/Code%20Meshing%20and%20Writing%20Instruction%20in%20Multi-Lingual%20Classrooms.pdf. Accessed 30 October 2021.

Michael-Luna, S., and A. Suresh Canagarajah. “Multilingual Academic Literacies: Pedagogical Foundations for Code Meshing in Primary and Higher Education.” EBSCO, Equinox Publishing, https://web.s.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=efd3377e-cdd7-400f-9aa8-673c4e3a985c%40redis. Accessed 30 October 2021.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, p. 114. Accessed 27 October 2021.

Speech in the Classroom

by Maddie Bendiewicz

Fish and Young broadcast their contrasting opinions in their articles on speech in the classroom. While Fish advocates for a strict promotion of standard written English, Young advocates for a mixture of different dialects in the classroom to help level the playing field for all students. And while learning this form of English will be different for all students, teachers should acknowledge that the use of this form of English doesn’t automatically make someone more intelligent. I think standard written English should be enforced in the classroom because it provides the best opportunity for success in today’s society.

Fish writes in his article “What Should Colleges Teach?” that there should be a standard form of English taught in the classroom. Standard English is known as English that “with respect to spelling, grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary is substantially uniform.” This form of English has been “established by usage in the formal and informal speech and writing of the educated … that is widely recognized as acceptable wherever English is spoken and understood” (Webster). Fish also believes in teachers discouraging students’ dialects if they stray from the standard. This mainly affects minority students and those who are not native english speakers, and having to adapt to this new form of English is like learning a new language. This disproportionate influence on students serves as Young’s motivation for his article in response to Fish’s.

Young opposes Fish’s stance in his article “Should Writers Use They Own English” by discussing how straying from the standard form of English is not inherently incorrect. He also brings up that these societally defined “incorrect” versions of English are common in the lives of mainly minority students, and having them adhere to standard English is like making them learn another language because it may not be the version of English that they use among friends or family. Young takes issue with Fish discussing his concern that his graduate students couldn’t write very good sentences. Young thinks that if “they wrote good enuff in they essays to get into grad school” that proves that they write well enough (Young). Young calls for an introduction of “code meshing” into the classroom. This is the combination of multiple dialects within any single context of communication. Code meshing allows people to “draw upon the resources of more than one “code” in the course of constructing or communicating meaning” (Malenczyk). This will make it easier for all students to incorporate the language that they use at home into their writing.

I agree with Fish on teaching a standard form of English in the classroom. I think that there should be a standard form of English grammar and language taught in schools. Not allowing students to learn societally acceptable uses of words and language is not giving them an equal chance at success. Fish vocalizes this concern by saying “You’re not going to be able to change the world if you’re not equipped with the tools that speak to its present condition” (Fish). Society has built itself around a certain form of language, and a complete understanding of standard English is crucial for success in today’s world. Whether you’re taking the SAT, ACT, LSAT, or other standardized tests, applying for a job, meeting new people, or talking to your professors, the way you speak has a huge impact on how you come across. Especially in job interviews when the person interviewing you doesn’t know you very well, you have to make a good first impression. Having the ability to give clear answers to questions and communicate effectively is a very important part of life and succeeding in society. And because vernacular languages are less often understood, this is more difficult if you aren’t using standard English.

In the words of Dr. Brennah Hutchison, ultimately this debate comes down to the question of “Are we helping students by not addressing effective lexical or syntactic choices some might view as erroneous?” This battle is essentially on whether to “nurture students’ home languages in academic prose or ask them to conform to stuffy, grammatical rules” (Hutchison). Although these seem like radically different ideas, there is room to compromise. While I believe in conforming to standard English in the classroom, I don’t think that the struggles of minority students should be ignored. While teaching about standard written English, teachers and professors should also reinforce the idea that people who use other dialects aren’t less intelligent than people who use the standard English that is reinforced in schools. Teachers should also educate students on different vernacular languages. Students should know that vernacular languages aren’t failed attempts at standard English but rather separate languages with different grammatical rules. This should be brought into classrooms by reading literature and listening to speeches in other vernacular languages in addition to standard English, and emphasizing their importance as well.

Instead of ignoring the fact that learning these English rules will be more difficult for some students, schools should teach everyone not to discriminate against other students for the way they speak and write. Teachers should allow a safe environment for students to speak the way they are used to but encourage them to learn the version of English that will allow them to be the most successful that they can be. Teaching standard English while also instilling this awareness of other vernacular languages will help move society toward a place more accepting of other vernacular languages.

Learning how to communicate may be one of the first things you learn in school, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Communication comes in many forms and learning effective communication for the workplace is different for every student. Depending on the student’s background and home environment, the difficulty of learning standard written English may vary. And although this will inevitably be more challenging for certain students, this topic should not be ignored. Teaching all students standard English will open the most opportunities for them. And teaching that different dialects and forms of English that stray from what is being taught in the classroom is not inherently incorrect or that the speaker is not necessarily any less intelligent is also important. This allows students of all backgrounds to feel more comfortable and included in the classroom, and foster a better learning environment. 

 

Works Cited:

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” New York Times, 9 Sept. 2009.

Hutchison, Brennah, and Angela Morris. “Mesh It, Y’all: Promoting Code-Meshing Through                           W        Writing Center Workshops.” The Peer Review, thepeerreview-iwca.org/issues/issue-4-2/     m          mesh-it-yall-promoting-code-meshing-through-writing-center-workshops/. Accessed 4        

             Nov. 2021.

Malenczyk, Rita, et al., editors. Composition, Rhetoric & Disciplinarity.

“Standard English.” Merriam-Webster.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural 

Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 110-18.

 

 

 

How should teachers incorporate code-meshing in the classroom?

by Lucy Angulo

Ahh the importance of diversity in the classroom. Universities and colleges never fail to mention how important a diverse community is to them by emphasizing their resources for minority students and creating equal opportunities for all their students. While there have definitely been significant strides when it comes to diversity in the classroom, we lack the diversity of language. What I mean by this is when it comes to learning how to write and communicate, we are taught there is one correct way, which is standard English. Any other language/vernacular is assumed to be inferior to English and therefore wrong. But what about students that have come from a different culture who might speak different languages and vernaculars such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE)? How can our classrooms be diverse if we limit the culture of students? To solve this issue, code meshing has been introduced to some classrooms, which is “the act of combining local, vernacular, colloquial, and world dialects of English on formal assignments and in everyday conversation in an attempt to embrace the diverse world in which we reside” (Touseank 1).  However, others are against the idea of this incorporation; they believe that as a society, we have established standard English as the correct and most appropriate language, therefore by teaching children about different vernaculars and incorporating code meshing  in the classroom, it is only setting them up to fail as they enter society. 

The American literary theorist and legal scholar, Stanley Fish, expands more on this issue in his article: “What Should Colleges Teach?” He explains that the possibility of a world where all languages and vernaculars are equal is impossible because of the system we already have in place: “It may be true that the standard language is an instrument of power and a device for protecting the status quo, but that very truth is a reason for teaching it to students who are prepared for entry into the world as it now is rather than the world as it might be in some utopian imagination- all dialects equal, all habit of speech and writing equally rewarding.”(Fish Part 3). Fish’s argument is not invalid, however the opinion that he and others share stop our world from being a place with all dialects that are equal and rewarded.  If code meshing and vernaculars were taught and encouraged starting at age when kids begin school, there is a possibility that they will become more accepted and respected in our society. 

As mentioned previously, significant changes can only be made if code meshing is introduced at the elementary level. By the time a student reaches middle school or high school, standard English has been ingrained into their heads, making any other type of vernacular foreign and seemingly wrong. Therefore, by combining different vernacular languages, such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE) with standard English, students will benefit from the language diversity in the classroom. Language is a part of our own identity, whether it is standard English or AAVE. The purpose of a diverse classroom is to learn and listen about different cultures and perspectives. Language is so important to any community, “for African Americans, code-switching is a performative expression that has not only helped some of us thrive in mainstream culture, it has helped many of us simply survive”(Harris 1). Therefore by taking away one’s ability to speak their own vernacular, you are taking away a part of them. Children need to be taught that every background, culture, religion, etc is valued and seen. In addition to incorporating code meshing in the classroom, it is just as important to teach children how to adapt to different situations to speak the vernacular code/language that will be most beneficial and effective. Therefore, code switching plays a role in teaching kids how to adapt to their environment since code switching is “the practice of switching between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation. It’s when you choose your style of communication based on whom you’re dealing with” (Touseank 1). This adaptability is a crucial skill, so even those who are not used to code switching or code meshing will be able to develop this skill to help them navigate the world.

The largest obstacle educators face when trying to incorporate code-switching and aave in their classroom is the fear that they are setting their students up to fail in the world or that they don’t fully  understand the vernacular to confidently teach others about it. Educators should focus on teaching the importance and validity of other languages/vernacular. Therefore, one factor limiting code meshing is fear; some educators believe it might seem inappropriate if they try to educate students about AAVE if they themselves are not African American. This fear causes a problem, it can affect their students as “our ignorance of specific cultures and languages can, unfortunately, be passed onto students who interpret it as judgement that one language is better than another” (Whitney 65). Therefore, the first step in incorporating code meshing in the classroom is to educate teachers and administrators so that they can confidently and correctly teach their students. Teachers should also make it known that students are encouraged to code mesh and speak their vernacular. 

Once educated, teachers should expose students to AAVE and code meshing by showing examples in writing, music, social media, etc. Through examples, students who are not familiar with AAVE, will begin to understand that those who do speak in their vernacular are “not making language errors: instead, she or he is speaking correctly in language of the fome discourse community”(Whitney ). When children see real life examples where English is combined with AAVE, they can understand that there isn’t a right or wrong way to write or communicate. In addition to in class exposure, teachers should assign their students to read a book, article, or journal that contains code switching or code meshing. With examples both in the classroom and outside, there will be more acceptance in society, which is the end goal for linguistic diversity.  

After children are exposed to code meshing, the next step for educators would be to incorporate code meshing into some assignments. Assignments will encourage students to use their vernacular comfortably and teach others more about the history and use of code meshing. Letting students write how they would talk or communicate freely without worrying about strict grammar rules grows their linguistic skills and creates an environment of acceptance and respect for all vernaculars. Another simple activity children can perform in the classroom is by practicing how they speak to their friends versus how they speak to their parents. Activities help children understand the principle of code meshing which helps students “better develop their communication and language skills while learning more” (Whitney 65). There is something so powerful in the ability to communicate with all different kinds of people, and these practices will prepare students to do so once they graduate. Teachers should also avoid correcting students when they code-switch, instead they should “observe and respond to the ideas and information that children express during code meshing, and build on children’s ideas and information by inviting them to continue to talk about what’s important to them” (U.S Department of Health and Human Services 13). As mentioned earlier, it is important to understand that code switching to standard English in certain situations such as a college interview is beneficial. However, teachers can still help them adapt without correcting them when they choose to use their vernacular language because it can make it seem like one language is preferred/better over the other. 

Incorporating AAVE in the classroom and encouraging code meshing is just part of the solution. As mentioned earlier, our society is built off using the “correct” standard English. Therefore, it is important for teachers to encourage vernacular languages but also educate how they can be perceived in certain environments or contexts. The ability to adapt is crucial in today’s society as other languages/vernaculars can be perceived as unintelligent and incompetent by others. As mentioned before, Stanley Fish talks about how impossible it is to change the perception of others when it comes to vernaculars because standard English has been rooted into society as the correct language: “You’re not going to be able to change the world if you are not equipped with the tools that speak to its present condition. You don’t strike a blow against a power structure by making yourself vulnerable to its prejudices” (Fish Part 3). Therefore, it is valuable to encourage students to use their own vernacular, but teach them when code-switching might be beneficial to them and will help them prosper. To evaluate whether or not one should code-switch, they should pay attention to the audience and think about how they will interpret what you are saying. Students have the chance to reflect and choose which linguistic style is best at the moment, this is why code switching and code meshing also improves communication.

. As classrooms become more diverse linguistically and culturally, there is a possibility that AAVE and different vernaculars will be as accepted as standard English by incorporating code meshing in the classroom at an early age. Vershawn Ashanti Young states what needs to be done to create acceptance of AAVE in his article Should Writers Use They Own English. Young mentions, “What we need to do is enlarge our perspective about what good writin is and how good writin can look at work, at home, and at school” (Young 112). Teachers also need to understand AAVE/other languages to be able to encourage it in the classroom while also teaching students how to adapt by code switching depending on the context. This acceptance will not come easily, but as new generations learn how to respect one another, people won’t feel as pressured to code-switch and will feel comfortable speaking in their vernacular around others who speak a different language. However, if code meshing and vernaculars were taught and encouraged starting at age when kids begin school, there is a possibility that the dominant  standard English language might dwindle. 

 

Works Cited

 

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Aug. 2009https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/what-should-colleges-teach/. 

Harris, Ida. “Opinion: Code-Switching Is Not Trying to Fit in to White Culture, It’s Surviving It.” YES! Magazine, Yes! Solutions Journal , 17 Dec. 2019, www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2019/12/17/culture-code-switching. 

Touseank, T. “Code Meshing V. Code Switching .” Tousean King, 20 Oct. 2016, tkingsite.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/first-blog-post/. 

U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families , Office of Head Start . Code Switching: Why It Matters and How to Respond , The National Center On Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness, pp. 4–13. 

Whitney , Jessica. “Five Easy Pieces: Steps towards Integrating AAVE into the Classroom.” The English Journal, vol. 94, no. 5, May 2005, pp. 64–69. 

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use Their Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 110–117., https://doi.org/10.17077/2168-569x.1095. 

 

Spanglish in the Classroom

by TJ Heck

The purpose of this blog post is to provide insight into what English as Second Language learners face both inside and outside of the classroom. To supplement these claims, teacher Kaylie Keels shares her personal experience, firsthand on the issue. First, the definition of ESL is posed followed by general challenges, and finally analysis of the issue as a whole.

ESL or English as a Second Language refers to those whose native language is not English. This title is for people who lack an extensive literacy in the English Language. I think that it’s commonly assumed that ESL learners are exclusively here in the states, but that is not the case. ESL learners are everywhere around the world. The struggle, however, is getting enough teachers, funding, and suitable curriculums to be able to effectively teach these English language novices. This and many other instances challenge UNESCO’s principle of literacy stating that “Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives. For individuals, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, ones’ income, and one’s relationship with the world” (Dollear).

If you went to public school growing up, which I think everyone should, you more than likely had peers going to separate or different classes than you did during the day. Having identified me as nosy through one of those elementary school hand games, I frequently wondered where my classmates went and what they did during their time away. Finding out that they got to participate in ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) class, I always just assumed that it was because those kids were Hispanic and needed extra practice to maintain their standing in the class. What I didn’t know, which I do now, is that these set-apart times were crucial in aspects further than just communicating in English.

ESL students face a variety of challenges, ones that we as native speakers wouldn’t know or even consider existed. Aside from the expected grammatical, syntactical, and components like those, the challenges that are the hardest to overcome are those that occur before, during, and after the physical learning time.

Kailey Keels, an educator with over 10 years’ experience in teaching ESL in the Charleston Public School System, states in her presentation, “the majority of the non-English speakers I teach on a daily basis are smuggled in by coyotes and shoved into the US in hopes of finding someone they know here. From there, they will instantly show up in my classroom one day without notice and I have to teach them”. For those that come to the US not knowing English, the journey itself impacts the students’ performance as they go through this sort of culture shock. The abrupt change in environment induces anxieties, especially as they are only introduced to the teacher and nobody else.

As there are ESL programs through the US, what the school districts in urban areas fail to realize is that “higher concentrations of non-native speakers learning in a classroom together, in theory, sounds productive, however, I think the results could be significantly better if there were more integration for real-world practice beyond the classroom”. What Kaylie means here is that while classroom instruction is important to build the foundations of the English language for these students, there is something to be said about how limiting it may be if they are not experiencing practice firsthand. With her two eyes facing her average class size of 27, Kaylie cannot singlehandedly solve this problem. Kaylie also states that lack of funding is also an issue that prevents teachers from satisfactorily teaching their students to match their capabilities. “The only material I was able to give my students was an English-to-Spanish dictionary and past standardized tests. Neither the schools nor state would provide me with anything else I needed”.

These are just a few of the challenges that impact ESL learners both in and out of the classroom. While these issues are certainly not hiccups, organizations have taken stances to educate and facilitate this alternative type of learning and assimilate it into the US public school system. The CCCC (College Composition and Communication), is “the world’s largest professional organization for researching and teaching composition”. The CCCC offers guidance on how teachers and program directors can facilitate the growth of their students’ English capabilities by implementing their various languages and literacies. In short, faculty members are urged to teach in a way that: recognizes, investigates, and advocates; essentially becoming more aware and considerate of their students’ situations and translating that into the classroom. I’d like to point out as well that in order for college and university faculty to maximize their planning, a lot of this learning needs to stem earlier and especially through highschool, which is what Kaylie is attempting to accomplish.

In my opinion, I think there should be a way to code-mesh, intertwine, and merge Spanish and English in academic writing. It should be done so in a way that “nobody’s language, dialect, or style make them ‘vulnerable to prejudice’[…] ITS ATTITUDES” (Young). I can state this due to the fact that it occurs outside of the classroom already. I have code-meshed at work with my coworkers or customers, with friends and family, and even with teachers. From what I have witnessed, code meshing occurs in public all of the time, I think it’s certainly more noticeable now with the presence of social media. It’s hard to pick out specific examples of code-meshing as it has almost become its own language, one that can mostly be understood by everyone, regardless of if you speak the language or not.

To close, my opinion on this topic is simple, while the manner in which this can be implemented is not. As of right now, I do not think it is fair to say that this is an attainable goal in the next 10 years. The profession of the English language is extensive and has remained concrete for hundreds of years. If this change were to occur, it would need to affect certain groups of people first, and trickle down to cover everybody involved. Until then, advocating for this change has to be sufficient enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Conference on College Composition and Communication. “CCCC Statement on Second Language Writing and Multilingual Writers.” Conference on College Composition and Communication, Jan. 2001, cccc.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/secondlangwriting. Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.

Dollear, Eleanor. “Literacy Is a Human Right.” Working in the Schools, 10 Dec. 2018, witschicago.org/literacy-is-a-human-right. Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” The Opinion Pages, 24 Aug. 2009. The New York Times, nyti.ms/2jsywBj. Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.

Keels, Kailey. “Teaching ESL.” College of Charleston, 26 Oct. 2021, Joe E. Berry Residence Hall 104. Speech.

Vecchiarelli, Jennifer. “4 Challenges ESL Learners Face.” ProLiteracy, 19 Apr. 2019, www.proliteracy.org/Blogs/Article/421/4-Challenges-ESL-Learners-Face. Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010.

The Inclusivity of All in the English Language

by Anya Newby

Language is the shared, common vessel in which we exchange ideas with the people and culture around us. In the modern Western World, conventional academic English is the educational standard for all sects of professionalism, for better or worse. Despite this, the majority of Americans are expected to “code-switch”, which, as defined by writers at Harvard, is “adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance, behavior, and expression in ways that will optimize the comfort of others in exchange for fair treatment, quality service, and employment opportunities” (“The Cost of Code-Switching”) in order to be seen as professional and/or educated. This practice is used starkly more within the African American community, as the use of AAVE and non-conventional vernacular is still commonly prejudiced against in America. While both Jamila Lyiscott and Vershawn Ashanti Young address the disparity that “proper English” imposes on those with non-conventional dialects and the consequential expectation to code-switch that comes with it, they emphasize these points entirely differently. Lyiscott focuses on the potential variety in dialects and focuses on code-switching, while Young places importance on code-meshing and diminishing the priority of conventional academic English altogether. Hopefully this essay illuminates these issues to whoever comes across it. 

Jamila Lyiscott delivers an influential spoken word piece titled 3 Ways to Speak English detailing her experience as a Black woman in America and the constraints, or unseen benefits, that are encompassed by mastering the switch between several dialects or “codes”. Between her vernacular from the classroom, her home, and her friends, she states she is “trilingual”, which is arguably accurate. Her ability to distinguish between which code she uses at what time has landed her the label “articulate”. This term, in my opinion, is both complementary yet backhanded. Her ability to differentiate what code to use and her proficiency in all make this accurate, but also insinuates that this ability to code-switch, especially to proper English, is surprising and deserves recognition, despite the common expectation to do so. This goes both ways, as she describes how she slips in between codes intentionally in certain environments despite the status quo, using academic English at home and even going as far as to correct her family members when their grammar is nonconventional. This only enhances the depth of her understanding and “articulation”, but varies greatly from Young’s ideology. Her execution also differs. Lyiscott distinctly trades between codes throughout her performance, but majoritarily speaking in a conventional English tone and diction; she focuses on code-switching, not code meshing. Her message promotes fluidity in multiple codes and a full adaptation to one’s environment.

Vershawn Young, the author of Should Authors Use They Own English?, has a different take. Throughout the article, Young uses code-meshing to combine “casual” AAVE and “professional” English. The medium makes a difference here too; Young’s interpretation includes unconventionally spelled English words, such as the use of “rite” instead of “right”, an opportunity to test boundaries that we don’t get with Lyiscott’s performance. This difference in spelling and phrasing does not hinder the reader– Young’s message is intelligible and well-read while also being comical and realistic, which only furthers his point that vernacular does not affect one’s ability to educate and express ideas to their audience. While everyone code-switches in certain aspects of their life, the expectation put on minorities to completely conform to a white-washed and western vernacular is refuted, rightfully so, by Young. When confronted with Stanley Fish’s question, “Who could object to learning a second language?”, Young replies, “Wouldn’t we all become multidialectal and plurilingual? And that’s my exact argument, that we all should know everybody’s dialect, at least as many as we can, and be open to the mix of them in oral and written communication” (Young 113). Personally, I agree with this; the burden to conform should not only impact non-conventional speakers, but all. 

One thing Lyiscott and Young are likely to agree on is the subjectivity of language itself, especially in America. With such a wide array of backgrounds and cultures, the ideology that a white-centered, standard English will bring one the most success is outdated and racially ignorant. As the most commonly studied foreign language worldwide, the English language, at its core, is meant to be altered and built upon; it should serve as a tool open for interpretation and not work only by strict conventions. Lyiscott describes the English language as, “a multifaceted oration/ Subject to indefinite transformation”. While Young does not explicitly say this, it is implied that this is a common belief. Instead, in one instance, Young references William Labov, a linguist in the 1970’s who noticed a disparity in opportunity for students who wrote and spoke in black dialect. Labov states, “in many ways [black] working-class speakers are more effective narrators, reasoners, and debaters than many middle-class [white] speakers, who temporize, qualify, and lose their argument in a mass of irrelevant detail” (Graff 37), to which Young adds, “so when we teach the rhetorical devices of blacks we can add to the writing proficiency of whites and everybody else” (116). While this is a slightly different point, the evolving and subjective nature of the English language and the improvements in communication that would result from including differing dialects and perspectives is undeniable. This leaves us pondering several questions; How can we destigmatize dialects other than conventional English in professional and educational environments? Furthermore, How can we support and implement diverse vernacular to benefit the whole?  

Naturally, we will address how English is taught. From the age of 5, the American school system teaches kids conventional American English with an overlooked rigor. Students are taught to read English and follow conventions specific to the language such as grammar, spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary. While these do not only apply to English, the innate focus on the proper execution while writing and speaking is inherently flawed. Kyoko Inoue, a linguist quoted by Young, states, “What the writer/speaker says (or means) often controls the form of the sentence…. [the] intent make[s the] sentence clear and understandable, not rules from the grammar police-man (Young 116). This, I believe, applies to teaching children English, especially if it is not their first language. While I’m not discrediting the importance of literacy, I firmly believe that literacy falls outside of academic conventions and lies within the message behind it. Lyiscott places an importance on being fluid in several codes, especially conventional English as to surpass obstacles, but counterintuitively this deepens the cycle and validates the structure that she adapted to. In no way is she wrong for this advocacy, but to deconstruct systematic English standards from development teachers should focus on the thought process behind the writing more than the vanity or conventionality of what was written. In other words, emphasis should be placed on why and what was written instead of how. This will not only allow English-speaking students to expand their worldview but will alleviate the pressure placed on young children of color to learn proper English in order to seem competent. This, in practice, is not easier said than done and the logistics behind reframing/loosening what is considered conventional English are plentiful and unclear. However, a social shift in attitude is the start to a long process. The more we educate those unaware of this institutional discrimination and normalize expanding what is considered proper, the closer we will be to our goal. Language is meant to express and share with others–it is more about intent and less about execution–and the greater we accept and understand each other, the more unified we become. 

 

 

Works Cited

 

3 Ways to Speak English | Jamila Lyiscott – YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9fmJ5xQ_mc. 

“The Costs of Code-Switching.” Harvard Business Review, 28 Jan. 2021, https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-costs-of-codeswitching. 

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach?” New York Times, 7 Sept. 2009. 

Graff, Gerald. Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind.

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English?” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 110–117., https://doi.org/10.17077/2168-569x.1095. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Code Meshing With Respect

by Cami Greene

In 2009, Stanley Fish released a three-part essay piece entitled “What Should Colleges Teach?” The third part of the series, which can be considered the most important piece, details how colleges and schools should teach writing. Fish argues that Standard English should be taught as the primary dialect used for academic purposes but acknowledges that groups of people have prior dialects they use to speak. He claims that solely teaching Standard English will allow those with other dialects to not be prejudiced against or taken less seriously compared to someone who uses Standard English (2). Following this essay, Professor Vershawn Ashanti Young published an essay reacting to Fish. Young mainly disagrees with Fish and claims that Fish is indirectly supporting language discrimination because “he appeal to its acceptable form-standard language ideology” (111). Furthermore, Young presents the idea of code meshing, which is when different dialects are blended together in conversation, leading to language diversity (114). This disagreement of sorts paves the way for scholars to talk about whether different dialects, such as AAVE, can be accepted into academic usage. I believe that we should use code meshing to some extent, but primarily accept AAVE and other dialects as grammatically correct and academically appropriate.

Following the release of Young’s essay, people began to discuss code meshing and how it could be incorporated into society. Ghanashyam Sharma wrote about Young among others about how Standard English is the “assumed” language and the people who are going against that narrative. Suresh Canagarajah is another writing who promotes code meshing. Canagarajah’s idea is to have teachers allow students to create their own forms of English with previously known dialects, while Young promotes the idea of teaching multiple dialects, so every child is multidialectal (Sharma 253). I agree with both writers and their opinions because I think students should be allowed to speak their own dialects without having a singular standard of English. However, I think Fish has a valid point when he mentioned that it may not be the best idea to implement a multidialectal education in schools because of previous prejudices of AAVE and Black dialects (Fish 2). If we were to teach multiple dialects at once, those who are white may appropriate black language or take it too far, such as using slurs like the N-word. Although I believe Fish has a valid point, I think overall I agree with Young and Canagarajah more.

Another voice in this discussion is John McWhorter, another author who writes about racism and the advocacy for black voices. In an article on his website titled,” ARE WHITE PEOPLE USING BLACK ENGLISH WORDS BEING LIKE ELVIS STEALING ROCK AND ROLL?” McWhorter summarizes a skit from Saturday Night Live in which multiracial people were using AAVE and Black dialects. Within the segment, the actors were playing teens communicating in AAVE. Although they were not making fun of the language, there was great backlash because people assumed a white person wrote the skit, but in reality, Michael Che (who is Black), wrote the skit (27). Without knowing who write the skit, people thought the non-Black actors were appropriating Black culture. McWhorter indirectly argues in favor of Young’s code meshing because we have a history of being interconnected, such as music. Using music as an example, artists such as the Rolling Stones or Eminem would not have the popularity they do without Black culture. He answers the title of his article by explaining that white people are using Black language to show how comfortable they are becoming with Black people rather than stealing their culture, but there are also still words white people don’t use from Black dialects (26). In the classroom, this way of thinking could be seen through code meshing and having blended languages. Students would have interconnected dialects without appropriating Black languages.

This way of thinking led me to believe that code meshing with respect will help the future of language in academia. If students use a version of code meshing, but acknowledging the roots of Black dialects, students can grow up being more diverse with their language and highlighting the equality of language. Originally, I thought it would be best to not code mesh because of appropriation and the worry that white people would not use Black language correctly, but McWhorter explained that if we were to try to keep languages separate, it would not work out due to how immersed language is in society and how quickly people pick up phrases. On top of that, McWhorter does not believe in a true form of “Black English” because it could be seen as a black person speaking in a Southern accent, which is not wrong in itself, but can be seen as an indicator of a lack of intelligence, especially using outdated stereotypes (23-24). This idea supports Young’s idea of multidialectal speaking because of how engrained the use of combined dialects already is, proving that it would be more difficult to try and separate the languages instead of embracing the diversity.

One way code meshing with respect could be enforced in a classroom is to create a guide deciding how non-Black students should or should not code mesh to an extent. This is only a suggestion but can lead those who are confused about code meshing in the right path. An example of this is allowing AAVE and room for discussion but not allowing slurs or derogatory statements. When deciding what is or is not respectful, nobody in particular can choose for all, but I recommend listening to people of color in the community and seeing what they have to say, but also realizing that this topic means something different to everyone and not everyone will have the same response.

However, the larger issue at hand is that Black dialects are not accepted as academically or grammatically correct, leading to racism against Black people and the continuous stereotypes that they are not as educated as white people. If the academic community accepted Black dialects, there could be more diversity in the way people write and speak in the classroom. This could also lead to some of the negative stereotypes not being as popular as they currently are because Black writers would be gaining more recognition for their work and ideas.

In conclusion, writers have been arguing about how Black language can be incorporated into the academic community for years. Both Fish and Young want to have Black dialects acknowledged, but Fish wants Standard English to remain the appropriate dialect used for academic purposes, while Young wants to combine dialects in the classroom to create a diverse experience. Other authors have sided with Young, such as Canagarajah or McWhorter, but still think Fish has valid points. I primarily agree with Young and McWhorter, but I think that we should code mesh to a respectable extent and teach the histories of Black dialects so they can be widely accepted in society.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Fish, Stanley. “‘What Should Colleges Teach?’ Part 3.” New York Times, 7 Sept. 2009.

McWhorter, John. “ARE WHITE PEOPLE USING BLACK ENGLISH WORDS BEING LIKE ELVIS STEALING ROCK AND ROLL?” It Bears Mentioning, 29 May 2021, johnmcwhorter.substack.com/p/are-white-people-using-black-english?r=3vwvr&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=twitter.

Sharma, Ghanashyam. “Rethinking Language and Writing in Composition.” JSTOR, 2009, www.jstor.org/stable/20866895.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writers Use They Own English.” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 12, no. 1, 2010, pp. 110–18. JSTOR, ir.uiowa.edu/ijc.

Language, Power, and Rhetorical Choice: We Needs To Bubble In Change

by Syd Jackson

I’m sure, as a first-year college student, you can clearly remember the apprehension, pressure, and stress surrounding college entrance exams, more specifically the SAT. Everybody, I’ve met at least, resents the College Board. Not only are their tests extremely expensive but arguably, and rightfully so, unfair. However, we very rarely question them. And nah, I don’t mean the typical, “why do I have to take this test?” but the real deep stuff like who made them so high and mighty? The major issue within the rigid confines of the test is that it is supposed to equally evaluate students but as we all know the truth and it’s plain as day: that test, and those like it, are catered towards a certain kind of intellect. For now, we’ll call that scholarly aptitude.

As affirmed by Stanley Fish in his work, What Should Colleges Teach?, what the SAT expects is that students be taught how to write “clean English sentences” or more simply put what it refers to as standard English. The multiple choice writing and language portion of the test does not account for vernacular languages, accents, or regional differences but simply asks the tester to “correct” sentences. They’re essentially claiming that scholarly aptitude can be measured through standard English. That simply isn’t true and by digging into the history of how the SAT got its name one can clearly see that.

Lemme break it down for you. Around the 1890s is when the SAT first started getting developed. Back then they, they being big ivy league schools like Princeton and Columbia, saw a need to set some sort of standard for who got to come to college even though Joe Smoe jobs were much more popular. Da 1920s was a time for recovery. One’s gotta remember dat ‘Merica was just coming out of the first World War. Most people had better things to worry bout after a ground shaking experience like dat. So in 1926, when Scholastic Aptitude Test was launched dere won’t too much public say. If dat name sounds familiar it should cuz take each first letter and it makes the thing we all know and love: the SAT. Originally, and still, the test was made to assess the overall intelligence of the test taker. It was derived from a government test, Army Alpha, and intended to serve as the ultimate IQ test for college admissions staff (Cheng). For that reason, in its early days the SAT won’t even made to test things you supposed to learn in school. There won’t no test prep, pretest, nothin likes we has today.The reason being was that them people wanted to test one’s raw ability.

Eventually people got upset about the name and test. Aptitude is a foul word directly related to ability. To say it bluntly, the test was used to tell whether you smart or not. To fail the test meant you was gonna be a failure in life. To escape the tension, the test changed. Instead of being a one and done type deal it became mo flexible. In 1993, the College Board dropped the full name, Scholastic Aptitude Test. They replaced it with several variations since then such as Scholastic Assessment Test. On record, they say dat today the SAT stands for nothing but they kept the acronym SAT cuz it’s well recognized and they don’t wanna cause confusion (Cheng). They gotta a fair point, but they also needa count for the ongoing legacy they continue by refusing to completely change the name. There’s still a stigma around dat test, regardless of the “name” change it’s still associated with one’s overall academic ability and IQ. To try and change that the College Board has restructured the test several times. A prime example is when they restructured the test in 2016. I was just 12 years old when I enlisted as a guinea pig to try the new format. ‘Course back den I ain’t understand all that, I just knew I was gonna to get a $15 books-a-million gift card. Apparently, I was part of the first group to take a three part test consistin’ of, “ evidence-based reading and writing, math and an optional essay”(Gumbrecht). Changin da criteria gave the test a bit more predictability and shifted the focus from natural abilities and instinctual knowledge to an overall reflection of a person’s education. But here’s the key takeaway from the College Boards messy story: if they did it before, they can do it again. Throughout the history of the SAT they have completely shifted what they test and how they test it. These changes been a direct response to public opinion so we simply gotta show em wat’s important. When it comes to incorporating and accurately assessing vernacular language and college readiness they simply need to make changes again.

As stated by Vershawn Young, there is a perceptin in ‘Merica that people who speak a vernacular language are dumb. And half of dat come from minorities’ “low” test scores. In our country, a whole bunch of African American children are lagging behind in our public education system. Go a lil deeper and you’ll find that African American boys are the farthest behind outta any of us (McMillian 3). Go a lil more deeper and you’ll find that dez kinda things happen all the time in rural school systems. Go way deeper and you’ll find that this don’t make no kina sense. Think about it, in regards to a primary public school education, South Carolina has plum shameful rankins all around. So how is it dat one group is expected and is assessed to much farther behind da others? Think bout it, factually speakin in America there is a thing called the “racial achievement gap” which summarizes the disproportionality in education between people of primarily European descent and people of primarily African descent (McMillian 2). Cuz we as a country only wanna test tings in their standard form, which ain’t being taught equally dez chidlin is “behind”. In math you gonna have to perform the operation a certain way to get points, in science the experiment gotta follow a certain list of steps, and in english the sentence gotta be written a certain way: standard english. For the record I ain’t gotta right in standard English to use parallel structure like I jus did. Now lets get back to how we started this expose: questioning. Above all else we needa ask ourselves , how does the SAT make they test? Ya know what I’ve noticed from the endless test reviews is that everything in there has gotta grain of truth or real world application so it stands to reason that the english section must be da same. If on the writing and language section of the test, the “wrong answer” is written in vernacular english a vernacular user will pick it every time cuz that how they talk. Take for example a standard question like number 43, pictured above. Specifically speakin, my slang or African American Vernacular English does not pay much mind to subject verb agreement. Da “correct” tense ain’t an issue in our communication but is commonly tested ting on da SAT. To disregard tense like we do in day to day life is wrong on da SAT. Dis question singles out vernacular users cuz it don’t sound wrong to us. To get it right we gotta retain our brain ta tink in standard english. It hard to keep two opposing ideas in your mind and still function, especially on da SAT. After so many “incorrect” answers I’m sure a testing machine will note dat dis tester has an issue with subject verb agreement as well as tense usage signaling dat this child is low education, low income and/or African American. Dez are all demographics

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dat are signed out by test questions like dis. So I’ll ask you is vernacular users not smart enough to be “college ready” or is the test set up against them and their language?

There’s plenty of people in dis country to debate over dat answer but the important thing is dat College Board and structures like it can in fact be inclusive to vernacular languages in fact they’ve always been. Take for example da Readin section of the test. Everybody hates reading dat long confusin poem from what seems like just before the fall of the Roman Empire but they incorporate it into assessing academic ability. They even include footnotes to aid test takers in dey understandin. Why might you, and hopefully you will after all this digging, ask? Da answer is simple they wanna see if you understand a language other than your own which is most commonly Old English. I’m only speakin freely now because the confines been lifted, otherwise I risk lookin uneducated. It’s because as Young stated the attitudes or public opinion. Changing the SAT gotta start with what Fish pointed out the metrics by which evaluate education. Dey changed da test before, dey can change it again. They could do the very same thing with other vernaculars and yet they haven’t. In all da other cases test takers, teachers, tutors, parents and anybody else who has a bone to pick with the College Board demanded change and change followed. Here is where it becomes a choice: one between morals and values and the other between practicality and circumstance. In a perfect world, we could all say and speak how

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we want but we live in an imperfect world where many think it better to abandon culture and change rather than starve. We all know dis, learning standard English is da difference between success and failure. We’s gotta change dat expectation and it starts here with da SAT da gateway to opportunity for yongins. If we don’t change it, we gonna miss out on brilliance just because it wasn’t communicated in the standard way.

Works Cited:

Ben. “A Brief History of the SAT and How It Changes.” Peterson’s, Peterson’s, 27 Feb. 2020, https://www.petersons.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-the-sat-and-how-it-changes/.

Cheng, Allen. “The Complete Story: What Does Sat Stand for?” The Complete Story: What Does SAT Stand For?, PrepScholar, 15 July 2021, https://blog.prepscholar.com/what-does-sat-stand-for.

Fish, Stanley. “What Should Colleges Teach? Part 3.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Sept. 2009,

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/07/what-should-colleges-teach-part-3/.

McMillian, Monique. “Is No Child Left behind ‘Wise Schooling’ for African American Male Students?” The High School Journal, vol. 87, no. 2, University of North Carolina Press, 2003, pp. 25–33, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40364302.

Gumbrecht, Jamie. “Major Changes Coming to 2016 Sat Test | CNN.” CNN, CNN, 6 Mar. 2014, https://www.cnn.com/2014/03/05/living/sat-test-changes-schools/index.html.

Viera, Mariana. “The SAT Is a Reinforcement of America’s Social Inequality.” Teen Vogue, 1 Oct. 2018,

https://www.teenvogue.com/story/the-history-of-the-sat-is-mired-in-racism-and-elitism.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Should Writer Use They Own English.” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies , 2010,

https://liberalarts.tamu.edu/english/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2021/01/Use-They-Own.pdf.