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Abstract

The quest to educate non-standardized English-speaking students has been a primary driving force behind developments in many fields represented by Compass journals, including sociology, geography, linguistics, psychology, history, literature, and education. Academics engaged in these multiple perspectives must join together, both to communicate knowledge about language variation to educators and to learn from educators’ experiences with teaching non-standardized English-speaking students. Following the conference theme of breaking down barriers, we draw on research gathered from multidisciplinary approaches to educational analysis by developing a linguistic awareness model that is designed to facilitate the sharing of knowledge about language variation between educators and researchers. Our model currently addresses three U.S.-based English language varieties: School English, Southern English, and African-American English. Drawing on these models, we highlight best teaching practices that can help non-standardized English-speaking students break down communication barriers to educational success in the pre-collegiate classroom. We draw on previous endeavors by academics to communicate information about language variation to wider audiences, noting two important challenges: the need to couple language variation awareness with readily accessible, specific examples of language variation and the need to provide information about how to work with language variation within the increasingly diverse classroom. We contend that only with this specific knowledge can educators use linguistic information to help students from non-standardized English-speaking backgrounds achieve in schools. Otherwise, educators may not appreciate the relevance and immediate necessity of the information. In our linguistic awareness model, we suggest realistic, cost effective ways to approach educators, including certification and re-certification courses, in-service workshops, websites, and wikis. A wiki of materials to accompany this paper may be found at http://charityhudleymallinsoncompass.wmwikis.net/. We also suggest future directions for linguistically aware educators to become resources for information on language variation and linguistic tolerance in their own schools and communities.

This paper was originally presented as part of the 2009 Compass Interdisciplinary Virtual Conference. You can read this paper along with commentaries and discussion at: http://compassconference.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/conference-paper-communicating-about-communication-multidisciplinary-approaches-to-educating-educators-about-language-variation/