Language and Diversity: The use of Different Dialects in Essay Writing in US colleges

The increasing number of international students in American colleges has injected diversity in the use of the English language. These students speak English as their second language (ESL) and in most cases face challenges in expressing and writing the standard academic English. The difference in cultural orientation of these students may influence their behavior and attitude further challenging their ability to comprehend the patterns of the new language. The colleges and teachers alike have always wrestled with the language differences and insisted on modification or eradication of the language variety. This instigated a heated debate with some scholars terming the move as an approach by one social group to dominate over others. On the other hand, proponents of compliance to the standard academic English have argued that the approach is beneficial since it’s associated with educational and career success. While refuting the claim of these proponents Scott, Straker and Katz argue “standard academic English performance” is not universal merit for evaluating educational performance, rather an approach for rejecting students based on their racial and social origins. In fact, more creativity and innovativeness in social sciences and arts are evident when the diversities in language are preserved. Allowing students to write and communicate in different dialects will significantly improve their educational performance and preserve their diversity.

The Importance of using Different Dialects in Essay Writing

Self-expression using proper wording and phrases can be achieved using any dialect. As such, writing a quality essay can be accomplished by using any form of English dialect. According to Scott, Straker and Katz communication of the exact content that responds to the essay question should form the basis of evaluating the student’s essay (65). Encouraging the students to concentrate on the content other than the form of dialect is an important approach of ensuring they report a high level of performance. Essays should not focus on the ability of the student to write in the standard institutional dialect but on their ability to effectively respond to the essay questions irrespective of the dialect used. As much as a mastery of the standard academic English is essential since it influences the judgment of competency and proficiency of a student in the US, it does not guarantee educational success. Besides, success on the mastery of the standard academic English language can be tested separately. As such, teachers should focus on improving the competency of the student in the expression of the English language other than the dialect used.

Learning different English dialects enhances the ability of the student to manage a fuller range of the languages that influence their performance post-college. While it is argued that those who learn and have knowledge in the standard academic English language have a higher chance of getting employment in the US, opportunities for the international students are not just confined within America. Mastering their dialect and performing better in the same can enhance their performance in another region without the country. Also, students are likely to perform better when given an opportunity to communicate using a dialect that they are more conversant with. In fact, teachers are likely to face significant challenges in their attempt to ensure that all international students adhere to a specific form of English dialect. According to Forgione and Radcliffe’s “the best way forward in teaching international students is to strategize on how to use their uniqueness to build a more global world” (Forgione and Radcliffe’s). Indeed, a high level of creativity in writing and overall performance is observed when the students are given an opportunity to adequately express themselves in a language that they best understand. Besides performing better in the essays, communicating in their unique dialects will give the students a chance to perform better in their careers.

Language patterns are deeply-embedded and form part of one’s self-concept thus difficult to alter. According to Scott, Straker and Katz switching from one dialect to the next become continuously difficult with the increase in age, thus college students are unlikely to make the language changes (61). Also, the dialect is an intrinsic part of the culture, switching from one dialect to the next means abolition of ancient culture, a direction most people are unwilling to undertake. Anzaldua indicates that “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity- I am my language” (Anzaldua 81). It is nearly impossible to get the international student change totally from their original dialects to embrace the patterns of the standard academic writing. They are likely to uphold their dialect with the aim of preserving their identity and maintaining their pride. Forcing them to only write essays using the standard form of English will not only affect their identity but will also interfere with their ability to freely express themselves in writing thus affecting their performance. Preservation of identity and respect of one’s culture is regarded as ethical giving an opportunity for the students to write essays in their dialect enhances the ethical performance of the teachers and the institution involved.

Conclusion

Embracing and encouraging students to write essays in their dialects does not only enhance their performance but also address the issue of ethics in reference to the preservation of culture and diversity. Performance in English and specifically essay writing is judged by the competency of the student and their ability to communicate the correct content. Students should thus be allowed to write an essay using their most preferred dialect. It is observed that the patterns of a language are enrooted in an individual’s culture, thus shifting from one dialect to another is nearly impossible. Forcing students to adhere to a standard form of dialect will affect their ability to adequately express themselves and consequently impact negatively on their performance. A high level of educational performance and to respect the dignity and pride of the international students in the US can only be achieved when they are offered a chance to communicate in their ideal dialects.

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