Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Jose Vilson writes about perception of language in "My Spanish is better than yours." There are widespread beliefs that some people speak better than others. Do people from England speak English better than we do? After all, they started long before us. On the other hand, if their English is so much better, why are there so many variations? Why don't the Beatles speak like the Queen? Is she more classy than they are? And if she is, why is her voice so screechy and annoying?

The absolute fact of the matter is variation is nothing more than what the word implies. Any suggestion that one variant is "better" than another stems from sheer ignorance. There's a tendency to refer to variation as "dialect," but that's a pejorative term that has no logical basis. People speak their own languages perfectly. Whatever you hear, you speak.

Now it may be wise to alter your language to suit the world in which you work. We all adopt jargon to one extent or another (though I've met a few Leadership Academy grads who take it well beyond the pale). Also, thinking people adjust their language to suit various audiences. It would be unwise to address young children, for example, in exactly the same way you address adults.

I understand there used to be speaking tests for teachers. That's idiotic. Traditionally, the form of speaking favored by those with money is considered to be the preferred mode of speech. I suppose, given the choice, I'd rather have money than not have money. But having money simply indicates a person is richer than me. It doesn't mean that person speaks better than me.

Most importantly, of course, it doesn't make that person better-looking than I am.
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