use of minority languages

Ronald Kephart rkephart at
Fri Jan 9 18:29:30 UTC 2004

At 9:42 AM -0500 1/9/04, Harold F. Schiffman wrote:

>It seems to me in the discussion of the use of Ladin and other
>languages, we need to keep in mind what the attitudes of the
>speakers are toward literacy in their language, and what it might
>mean when literacy in another language might give them more 'power'.

Yes. The issue surfaced when I was doing work on literacy in Creole
English in Grenada back in the 80s. Interestingly, though, in my case
the most vociferous critics were "educators" from Canada and Great
Britain, who were convinced that time learning to read Creole was
wasted and would produce "confusion" in the kids I was working with
(age about 12) when it came time for them to read standard English. I
think I showed that this was not the case, and I think that heaps of
research in other more or less analogous situations supports this.

So, my two cents worth: We need to respect people's attitudes and
opinions, but as people whose profession is the study of these
issues, we also need to tell them the truth, whenever we can. The
notion that first-language literacy impedes or hinders literacy in
the "standard" or "official" language is, basically, an instrument of
oppression promulgated by people and institutions who benefit from
the illiteracy they claim to be so concerned about eliminating.

Ronald Kephart
Associate Professor
Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice
University of North Florida

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