Indeed, language has been one of the most fundamental elements of culture. As such, culture and history brings about a language. However, in today’s society, English is slowly becoming a global language. This is to say, many people are learning English as their second language and because of this, dialects are starting to form out of English. These smaller versions of English bring to it the culture of those trying to learn it – whether they are African-Americans, Hispanics or Asians.
Because each is unique and is a reflection of different cultures, the label of Standard English used by Americans is a bit inappropriate. To say that there is one standard means that the others are less formal or different from the norm. In fact, it is not the deviation from the standard that sets these apart but culture and history, which is brought about by these dialects. For me, Hispanics speaking English brings into the language the passion and intensity of the Spanish language. It should not be looked down upon as is the case of Ebonics or Black English.
Some words that are not normally used by pure white Americans may be included in such dialects but it is not because it is slang or informal, but because it is a reflection of the heritage that speaks them – whether it be African Americans or Hispanics. People should be proud of how they speak even though it may not be classified as “standard” because the way they speak shows who they are. In learning English, it is not good to simply copy how the majority speaks English but to learn the language but still let our native culture and heritage to shine through.
This is why I feel that it is very appalling when people think a dialect is uncultured or uneducated when in fact it is simple a different kind of culture and education that is being shown by the dialect. In fact, the assumption of a “standard” only means that the people who define which are the norms are the ones in power. They use “standard” English and therefore, they want their type of language to be the best. They themselves are proud of their way of speaking and want everybody to understand the beauty of their type of English. However, this is also the case for everyone.
Now, if only minorities would see their dialects in the same way then they too can consider their dialect as, not only valid, but also equally respectable and normal. Growing up and learning English as my second language has helped me gain a respect for my Hispanic-Anglish language. It shows that even if I speak a different language than my native tongue, I am still able to hold on to who I am and still my culture and history is brought out whenever I speak. This certain kind of pride helps me to feel respected and part of the norm.
However, I know that society is a tough crowd. Even though I may feel my brand of English is beautiful and at equal footing with the “standard”, officially, I know that there is a certain type of success associated with some variations of English. The language as spoken by Americans or English will still be considered as better and more educated by most people. That is why I am hoping my daughter will be given the same benefits as local Americans or naturally English speaking people because her first language and my husband’s first language is English.
I do not feel there is something else I can do to change this fact, since I know it is integrated already into the mindset and system of society. It is institutionally and culturally accepted. However, for me who is learning English, I do not feel compelled to make other people speak “standard” English in order to treat them better or to look upon them with more respect and/or admiration. I know for a fact that most people learning another language puts in the time and effort that deserves such respect and/or admiration.
Therefore, I am not afraid to show and give it to them. I do hope that one day, the people who are naturally speaking English, can look upon those studying and taking English as their second language at the same level. Some words may be different. Some accent may be present. But the fact of the matter is, English is just an expression of emotions and feelings and thoughts and opinions. It should not be a means of segregating people and classifying them as a lower class or a less educated class. In fact, it should be the opposite.
Language should be used to connect people and to integrate different experiences and culture. The fact that people like me are studying English bringing in our experiences and culture to it means we are breathing in new life to English and enriching it. Even people who are not in America who are adopting English to their own language commands such respect. Indian or Singaporean English have become an entity of their own. They bring in new words and means of expressions while retaining English as the backbone of the new language being developed.
This is a means of enriching English instead of breaking it down and destroying it. Instead of just carrying the same expressions and words, the exotic experiences and everyday lives of these foreigners are forging with English and therefore, creating a livelier language. People who speak English in their own land while keeping intact their own first languages therefore makes English a more global language and are uniting the world and making people feel closer and more connected with each other.