One of the first topics we are exploring in my literacy course is the role of dialect in shaping attitudes and identities. It is interesting how many of the assumptions raised in this video (US Language Attitudes) are presented by the contributors as not only pervasive but innocuous. The associated prejudices appear more as foregone conclusions as opposed to established stereotypes that can negatively impact one’s perception of others as well as of oneself.
In order to personally “hook” students on the idea of dialect (as defined within the boundaries of vocabulary and syntactic differences), a recent post from the New York Times, “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk,” presents a scary-accurate test to assess your regional background based on your answers to a short series of multiple choice questions. So far, I’ve consulted with 5 other people who have taken this test, hailing from areas across the country–all of whom were easily and accurately pegged to their hometowns. Seems like a great introduction into what will hopefully be a reflective and engaging conversation.