Monday, July 01, 2013

Language as talisman #elel2013

Yesterday at the  Everyday Language, Everyday Literacies Conference taking place in Sheffield, UK, the afternoon started with presentations from members of the Language as Talisman project, starting with Richard Steadman-Jones exploring the meaning of "talisman" (e.g. power, protection) and how that related to language. He was followed by Accents are R8 GR8’ – accommodating accents and dialects from David Hyatt. This project aimed at helping students to be confident about their use of language, be proud of their cultural heritage and help the school counter the criticisms from school inspections on the use of accent and dialect by teachers and pupils (i.e. non-use of "Standard English").
Rather than seeing this use of dialect as a deficiency, he put forward the contrastivist approach, in which you learn to be attuned to the differencies between one way of speaking and another, so that you are also capable of switching between them. Hyatt also mentioned accommodation theories.
The children in the study were asked when they would use their normal Rotherham accent and when they would "speak a bit more posh". They said, for example they might speak posh with new school-mate they didn't know, but otherwise would speak normally with their friends. However with a school inspector they were divided, some would speak normally, others explained that if you didn't talk posh the inspectors would think the teachers hadn't taught you to speak properly.
Kate Pahl tweeted a related work (some research mentioned by the speaker) at
The website for the Talisman project is at
Photo by Sheila Webber, photoshopped, 2013

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