Dialects and the Left Brain


Dialects and the Left Brain

By Jeremiah Cameron, Ph.D. (July 1, 2001)

Whenever schools or parents try to teach children language (and the critical years or windows of opportunity are years 1–10), they want to create nerve cells and interconnections in the left side of the brain. Any form of language the child is taught is some form of dialect, for languages and systems of speech are all technically dialects. The Left Hemisphere processes all aspects of each dialect.

It is the dialect problem that is the main reason why so many children are performing poorly in our schools. Schooling involves understanding what is on the printed page and/or understanding the spoken instructions of the teacher. The language of books is in the dialect of STANDARD AMERICAN ENGLISH. And if the child's left-brain has the neural connections for its sounds; arrangements of words and phrases, meanings of words used; pitch; pauses; stresses and idioms that appear on the printed page, the child will be able to read the writing.

Most such children are middle class children, coming from homes where "good" English is spoken. But if the child is poor black, white, Mexican or Asian he likely comes from a home where the language—in words, grammar, syntax, idioms, pitch and stresses—is NOT LIKE THAT OF THE BOOKS, that child will not be able to read. He will also have difficulty understanding the spoken dialect of the more-educated teacher.

Take note that schools all over this country with teachers and administrators, who ought to know this and have no specific conception of the difference-in-dialect language problem, spend and spend and spend—and the children still cannot read. I do not wish to be pessimistic, but there is not too much that can be done to achieve in-depth reading, after puberty has set in. Nature, not me, is dictating this. Look at the data.

What linguist and neurologists assumed years ago can be proved through the brain scans that can be taken as children assert mental abilities. With adequate language stimuli—like letting small children see your facial expressions as you read aloud, emphasizing and stressing words and word units; providing children with books, and LETTING CHILDREN TALK—children's brain areas for language, especially in the LEFT HEMISPHERE, develop like mad in years 1–3 and continue to develop until puberty, at which time the growth does not stop but slows up CONSIDERABLY. To hone language children must be allowed to "talk back."

What must school do to aid the LEFT HEMISPHERE, which is responsible for coding a dialect's words, phrases, pitches, pauses, stresses, word hoard, idioms and word and phrase arrangements? Create materials and structures that help the kids who speak a non-standard dialect transpose the printed page into the way they speak. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY PRESENTLY. Few teachers have been trained to do this. BUT THEY CAN BE TRAINED TO DO IT. There is no other way to get children to read—and cease being humiliated, embarrassed, frustrated dropouts or troublemakers. The handwriting has been on the wall!

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