We studied the following examples today, and decided what the problems were with the sentences.
Where was you yesterday? – wrong person – Where were you…
I didn’t do nothin wrong. – You can’t use 2 negatives. Very American English.
She learn’t me a lot of knew things. – wrong verb usage. It should be ‘taught’, also, the spelling should have been ‘learned/learnt’. Use of a homophone ‘knew’ for ‘new’.
I need yous two too help me tomorrow. – A common utterance in Liverpool is to make the plural of you stronger by adding ‘s’, when SE accepts ‘you’. Also, they have used the homophone ‘too’ instead of ‘to’.
Thanks for borrowing me that money. – Incorrect verb usage – should be ‘lending’.
I been livin here for 6 months. – Missed out main lexical verb ‘have’ and omitted ‘g’ from ‘living’.
I gotta go now. – Omitted verb ‘have’ and ‘got to’. It’s been written very much how someone might speak.
He learns real quick. – We would often prefer to say ‘really quickly’ with a modifier ‘really’ and adverb ‘quickly’.
I think this activity has helped me to think about the ‘mistakes’ we make all the time, and appreciate that spoken forms can have some flexibility in comparison to written forms. Learners often write how they would speak, and teachers need to bear this in mind when correcting their work.
Learners usually see things in 2 ways; ‘right’ (so they feel good), or ‘wrong’ (they tell themselves they’re no good). All too often have I gone through corrections with learners and sensed feelings of school have returned for them even after the first word. Although rapport building is something we spend time on, some are not sure how to deal with criticism and feel totally disempowered if they make a minor mistake. They lose face. They retract on our agreements. Then you get the learners who insist on telling other learners the ‘rules’ but they have no real understanding of them. With this in mind, something I try to do is contextualise the rules in relation to their own language.
I’ve found written work is often corrected with little explanation to the learner about the ‘bigger picture’ of dialect and forms of English and where they ‘fit’ in all that, so they’re left feeling like they’re either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I usually would try to explain that just because their written work is incorrect in terms of Standard English, it doesn’t mean what they say is all wrong as grammar in dialects can vary. This also opens up the possibility of using dialect as a style in writing for them and possibilities of self-awareness in future.
Of course not every learner wants to know about language, and that’s totally fine, but we shouldn’t deny them an accurate picture.