Bringing World Englishes into the Comp Classroom

In “The Place of World Englishes in Composition,” Canagarajah asks, “What is the place of [World Englishes] in college writing?” (594), listing the many ways that World Englishes are seen as non-standard, informal, and otherwise unacceptable forms of English. He argues that should encourage students to use multiple Englishes both in process writing and in their final written products. Can, and should, we teach World Englishes in the composition classroom? What do these final products look like?

Map of World Englishes

"World Standard Englishes" from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language via talkingpeople.net

Multimodality could be an interesting framework for including World Englishes in composition settings. Because multimodal frameworks encourage multiplicity in genres, modes, and media, they could also accommodate multiplicity in languages and dialects. Situating composition in a framework that supports multiliteracies and multimodal composing could move away from simply tolerating students’ different linguistic backgrounds and move toward a classroom that supports and engages with those differences.

Say, for example, that a student does a multimodal research project about a local community center. The student could do archival research about how long the center has existed and what services they have offered over the years. She could photograph different events that the center sponsors. She could interview people who frequent the center and include those voices in the project. If the center hosts technology workshops, open mic nights, or conversational language groups, any of those perspectives could be easily represented within a multimodal project. Such a project blends genres, written and oral narratives, and literacies into a cohesive rhetorical artifact that encourages multiple voices. Is this a way that multiple Englishes can be integrated into the classroom?

 

Canagarajah, A. Suresh. “The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued.” College Composition and Communication 57.4 (June 2006): 586-619.

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One thought on “Bringing World Englishes into the Comp Classroom

  1. I’ll just bitch about this here cuz I’ve been drinking: it’s unhelpful to compare or in any way conflate edited standard english with spoken varieties (including my own variety of, like totally, ya know, so cal english). You didn’t conflate them in your post, of course. It’s your graphic. Your own helpful commentary aside, the graphic you posted is just continuing the conflation of WRITTEN standards (what Walter Ong calls “grapholects”) with SPOKEN varieties. No one talks like they write, at least not without great effort in formal settings. The whole point of written standards is for people across all those dialects and varieties to understand one another and share knowledge and culture. The spoken varieties don’t evolve from the standards, as the picture implies. Spoken language is evolving all the time. Written standards, however, aren’t supposed to evolve. That’s their whole raison d’etre. That’s why all this talk of code-meshing and letting students write their vernaculars pisses me off. It’s pernicious, really, and mis-understands the whole point of written standards. The standard hasn’t changed much in 500 years; we can still read Locke perfectly well, even though he may have SOUNDED quite odd to us. If we allow the rapid evolution of spoken language to infiltrate the written standards (which won’t actually happen, mind you), you can kiss cross-cultural communication good-bye.

    K, I’m done now. :) I’m with you on multimodal projects, though.

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