Starbulletin.com


Tuesday, November 30, 1999



Professahs say no
let pidgin boddah
you in school

UH faculty members say
let it be spoken if it works in
the learning process

By Crystal Kua
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Pidgin and English can co-exist peacefully in Hawaii's schools, and no one should be prevented from using pidgin where it works in the learning process, advised a group consisting primarily of University of Hawaii faculty and graduate students.

In its position paper entitled "Pidgin and Education," which was released late last week, the 13-member Da Pidgin Coup also called for language awareness classes for teachers and students to help foster "informed understandings" of pidgin.

"There is nothing wrong with pidgin," said Da Pidgin Coup member Laiana Wong, a Hawaiian and Indo-Pacific Languages lecturer.


Pidgin Coup position

Da Pidgin Coup, in its position paper "Pidgin and Education," recommends:

Bullet Language awareness seminars and classes or in-service training for teachers, which include strategies for building on the home language and understanding language systems.

Bullet Language awareness programs for students to learn about the history and social functions of both pidgin and standard English, and to discover ways in which the two are different.

Bullet Research on the relationship between pidgin and school success, and how to best build on the language children bring to school.


Diana Eades, an associate professor of English as a Second Language and convener of the group, said a copy of the academic paper has been forwarded to Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu and a copy of will be sent to the Board of Education.

"We hope it opens up communication with (the Department of Education), LeMahieu and the Board of Education," said Kent Sakoda, an English as a Second Language lecturer who teaches a course on pidgins and Creoles.

While the first language learned by island residents is commonly called pidgin, language experts say it's technically a creole and is often called Hawaii Creole English. The group refers to the language by its popular name.

Da Pidgin Coup was born

Da Pidgin Coup was convened in the fall of 1998 for the initial purpose of "just talking about pidgin," Eades said.

But the pace of group's work picked up this year after pidgin was being looked at as a possible culprit for lackluster scores by Hawaii's eighth-grade students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress writing test.

Civil-rights attorney William Hoshijo wasn't meeting with the group at the time the scores were made public but he read comments by Board of Education Chairman Mitsugi Nakashima, who said that speaking pidgin leads to thinking and then writing pidgin.

"It really struck me that there needed to be a response," said Hoshijo, who joined the group. "The reason it's such an important issue is that the comments called into issue the capacity and capability of pidgin speakers to learn."

Underlying issues of bias

Hoshijo, who also is executive director of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, said there are underlying issues of discrimination against pidgin speakers, as well as the incorrect belief that pidgin is inferior to standard English.

In a summary of its position, the group says:

Bullet Pidgin is a language, just as English is a language.

Bullet All children come to school with a language and that language should be accepted and never denigrated.

Bullet For children who come to school with pidgin, this language deserves as much respect as any other language.

Bullet No one should be prevented from using pidgin where it works in the learning process.

Bullet While teachers should teach standard forms of English, in no way should it replace pidgin.

Bullet There's a fundamental difference between speaking and writing. Most children learn to read and write when they come to school. All children can speak before they come to school.

Bullet There are social advantages to being able to speak pidgin, just as there are social advantages to being able to speak standard English.

Bullet There is plenty of room for pidgin and English to coexist peacefully and be mutually enriching.

"There is no dispute as to the importance of students learning Standard Written English, but there is no evidence that pidgin speakers are less capable of learning to write," the group says in its paper.

The group goes beyond just tolerating the use of pidgin and protecting users against discrimination, and advocates fostering an environment that "nurtures and appreciates the communicative skills that Hawaii's children bring with them to school."

As a result, the group is recommending language awareness seminars and classes or in-service training for teachers, which include strategies for building on the home language and understanding language systems.

Similar programs in Australia led to a reversal of teacher attitudes, Eades said.

Recommendations also include providing similar programs for students so they can learn about the history and social functions of both pidgin and standard English, and discover ways in which both languages are different.

Research recommended

The group also wants research to be done on the relationship between pidgin and school success, and how to best build on that home language to achieve success in school.

Eades and others say other countries and parts of the mainland are facing the same issues, and Hawaii could learn from those places.

The paper begins with the origins of pidgin and how negative terms used to describe it have led to shaping attitudes toward the language and its speakers.

"Throughout Hawaii's English-speaking history, the negative terms have exacerbated the confusion between pidgin and literacy," the paper says.

But it goes on later to say, "pidgin speakers are aware that negative, insulting and racist attitudes to pidgin are still common today."


Many isle educators roost
in Da Pidgin Coup

Da Pidgin Coup includes University of Hawaii language experts, graduate students, a civil rights lawyer, a Hawaiian language educator, a public school teacher, and pidgin- and non-pidgin speakers:

Bullet Lori Bennett, masters program student in the English as a Second Language Department.

Bullet Kathryn Davis, professor in the ESL Department

Bullet Diana Eades, ESL associate professor.

Bullet Ermile Hargrove, educational consultant.

Bullet William Hoshijo, executive director of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

Bullet Suzie Jacobs, English Department professor.

Bullet JoAnn Kadooka, ESL masters program.

Bullet Vivian Machida, ESL masters program.

Bullet Terri Menacker, doctorate program in Second Language Acquisition.

Bullet Dulcie Oshiro, public school teacher in the ESL masters program.

Bullet Kent Sakoda, ESL lecturer.

Bullet Michelle Winn, ESL masters program.

Bullet Laiana Wong, lecturer for the Department of Hawaiian and Indo-Pacific Languages.




E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]



© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin
http://archives.starbulletin.com