Learning and Negotiating Standard English in the US Classroom: Overlooked Challenges of Creole English Speakers

By Christa de Kleine.

Published by The International Journal of Literacies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: December 16, 2015 $US5.00

As a result of increased immigration from a variety of post-colonial Anglophone countries around the world that employ local, unique varieties of English, US schools and universities now regularly enroll foreign-born students whose variety of English does not match that of the US classroom. An important subgroup among these constitutes speakers of “restructured” varieties of English, that is, pidginized and creolized varieties, primarily from West Africa and the Caribbean. Many of these students display a pattern of academic underperformance, at the K-12 level and at the post-secondary level, which has been linked, among other factors, to their written language skills. This has led to the current need for a better understanding of how speakers of restructured varieties learn standard English, and how they subsequently come to negotiate multiple varieties of English in education. This paper discusses the challenges of acquiring a non-creolized variety of English—standard American English—by speakers of creolized English. Based on data from West African Creole English-speaking secondary school students enrolled in an ESL program in a large US school district, I explore the unique second dialect acquisition challenges that these students face, and discuss pedagogical implications.

Keywords: Second Dialect Acquisition, Creole English, ESL Instruction

The International Journal of Literacies, Volume 23, Issue 1, March 2016, pp.31-39. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: December 16, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 446.424KB)).

Dr. Christa de Kleine

Professor of Education/TESOL, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Baltimore, MD, USA