In the Public Schools: Educating Caribbean Creole English Speakers

Shondel Nero, associate professor of teaching and learning, studies second language and second dialect speakers. Her research examines the politics, challenges, and strategies of educating students who speak and write in nonstandard varieties of English, including Caribbean Creole English.

“As we move further into the twenty-first century, English is likely to become more diverse,” Nero said.

Nero’s research, published in Englishes in Multilingual Contexts (Springer, 2014), examines the language, identities, attitudes, and pedagogical implications that arise from rapidly increasing number of Caribbean Creole English speakers in American schools.

Caribbean Creole English speakers typically identify as native speakers of English. Yet, many teachers who work with these students in the classroom question their “nativeness” as speakers of English, and the very notion of what counts as English.

Using data from Caribbean Creole English speakers in one New York City public school as a case study, Nero explored teachers’ and students’ varied linguistic responses to Caribbean Creole English speakers. Nero argues that the contact between Caribbean Creole English and other varieties of English is already changing classroom English and calls for utilizing Caribbean Creole English as a point of departure for pedagogy, literacy development, and raising language diversity awareness.

Nero’s recommendations for educating students who speak and write in nonstandard varieties of English include confronting language attitudes, prioritizing teacher training and ongoing professional development, using activities that allow for creative uses of language, and respecting students’ language.

“If we want to prepare our students to be linguistically and communicatively competent citizens of the twenty-first century, then we must expose them to sociolinguistic variation, to the dynamic, variable nature of language, particularly to the Englishes they will hear, see, and write as they interact with users of the language from around the world,” Nero said.

-Rachel Harrison

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