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Trilingualism: English Language and Baker

It’s Always about the Education “Ya’ll need to put up your toys! ” was what my father used to say to me when I was younger. I must have had a confused look on my face because then my mother would whisper to me “he means pick them up and put them away. ” My mother grew up in suburban New Jersey and my father grew up in South Florida. As far as their education goes my mother did some college and my father graduated with his high school diploma.

After reading the first two sentences judgments were already made and my father would have been labeled uneducated and my mom educated even though there levels of education are not that different. He was using what author Judith Baker would consider “home” English. (51) Where as my mom was using what Baker would consider “formal” English. (51) Baker also wrote about “professional” English, but that type of English would not have been used in that situation. The whole concept of Judith Baker’s “Trilingualism” is based on the different types of Englishes.

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Which she states are home, formal, and professional. (51) In her words home English is what “most students learn at home, and most immigrants often learn from peers, and for first and second immigrants may be a combination of English and their mother tongue. ” (51) Home English is the language people are most comfortable using, and they use it in a more relaxed setting. That also depends on how they were raised to speak it. For example if they were raised “properly” they would speak it with peers and on certain occasions 2 with some adults.

If they were raised “poorly” they would most likely speak it with anyone and would be considered ignorant. The “properly” and “poorly” boundaries have been set by our society. They set them up and enforce the many stereotypes we have in this world. Society is not just the media it’s every living, breathing human being on this planet. Any where you go, whether it be to a town a few miles away from home, or to another country entirely, you will always be judged by the way you speak. First generation immigrants coming to any country, the majority of the time, are looked down upon.

There have been times when I’m waiting in line to order at a fast food restaurant and the person in front of me gets mad because the person taking their order can’t speak very good English. Then they start to mumble all kinds of names and curses under their breath, making as many assumptions as possible about this person that they just met. Society makes living tough for immigrants, which is why Baker tries to make it easier for her students. Baker believes that if you build a relationship with a respect for the students home language they will be more willing to appreciate and understand formal English. 50) Author Lisa Delpit has a similar belief, as she concludes, “if schools are to be successful at teaching Standard English, they must be as welcoming of the children, of their lives, and of the worlds that interest them. ” (Delpit 32) If students feel that the language they are most comfortable using is respected and welcomed they will feel comfortable learning Standard English. Delpit’s inspiration is based on her daughter Maya, who as an elementary school student was shunned because of her ethnic background.

People should be more considerate of other’s cultures and backgrounds. We are all living in this world trying to make ends meet, we have all 3 had our ups and downs, and no one is perfect. Yet the majority of our society is so quick to judge them based on their differences and place them in a particular stereotype. The second of the three types of Englishes according to Baker is formal English, otherwise known as Standard English. (Baker 51) Which she states is “learned by many in school, from reading, and from the media, although it may also be learned in well educated families. (51) That is the type of English that Delpit and Maya were taught as children. This would be used in a school setting or when speaking with parents. From society’s point of view it is better known as the “proper” way of speaking. When certain people hear others speaking with a less formal language it is looked at in a negative way, and they are then considered ignorant because it’s not the “right” way of speaking. Everyone has different opinions on the correct or incorrect way to speak the English language.

There is a time and a place for each of them to be used, and that is where society decides when the usage of the three Englishes is either correct or incorrect. Over the summer I had a job working for a company called Cut Co, and when I went for the interview they asked that I dress professionally, which had given me the impression that I should speak that way as well. Turns out the impression I was under was right and I got the job. The manager saw me as well educated and that’s what he was looking for. Baker’s third type of English is professional English.

Which she describes as “the particular language of one’s profession, which is mostly learned in college or on the job, on in my school, in vocational education. ” (Baker 51-52) If I had walked into my interview in a bathing suit talking slang, I would not have gotten that job. That’s not considered professional or proper for that type of job. 4 There can be many possibilities of different professional Englishes though, if I was applying for a job at the beach I would not be wearing business attire or speaking professionally, that’s not what they are looking for.

As a teacher, Baker wanted her students to feel comfortable with learning Standard English. She believed that by helping her students to feel comfortable by respecting their home language they would be more willing to learn. (50) By putting a name to the three Englishes, it helps her figure out better ways to teach her students. If she can separate the languages it will be easier to pin point where they stand and where they need to go next for the student to learn.

At the end Baker said, “I am convinced that high school students can achieve a deep and personal understanding of the most academic and formal varieties of English if it is separated from trappings which demean their own cultures. ” (60) Which is just more proof that she truly believes that her students be more willing. 5 Work Cited Baker, Judith. “Trilingualism. ” The Skin That We Speak. Ed. Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgour Dowdy. The New Press: New York, 200 Delpit, Lisa. “No Kinda Sense. ” The Skin That We Speak. Ed. Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgour Dowdy. The New Press: New York, 2002


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