Daily Archives: November 3, 2014

Language and power: A well “articulated” analysis

It is  a rewarding feeling when a student teacher from years past emails a link to an article, a video, or an image that is reflective of the messages we discussed in our teacher education class. The message it sends me is this, “I remember you. I remember your teachings. I learned and am still thinking about what it means to be a teacher and what it means to teach literacy”.  Today I (Yiola) received a short email from a student of four years ago. She sent the following link:

The link takes us to a spoken word presentation entitled “3 Ways to Speak English” shared on TED during a theme based session called “Examining Prejudice”.  Her talk as part of the series is described as:

Educator Jamila Lyiscott delivered an incredible poem called “Broken English,” in which she showed that she is a “Trilingual orator” able to speak fluently at home, with Caribbean parents, at school in “proper English,” and with her friends in a language that is as formal and rules-based as the other two. The poem raised a big laugh when she pointed out, “You may think it is ignorant to speak Broken English, but even articulate Americans sound foolish to the British.”

My favourite part is when she says:

So I may not always come before you with excellency of speech

But do not judge me by my language and assume

That I’m too ignorant to teach

‘Cause I speak three tongues

One for each:

Home, school and friends

I’m a tri-lingual orator

What stands out for me about the poem and what I will share with my students in class this week:

1) The power of language and how we associate language with power

2) Language and how it informs our identities — how many languages do you speak?

3) Linguistic profiling: the racial identification and discrimination of an individual or group of people based on their speech  and how that plays out in society and in the classroom

4) History — and how it influences our use of language

I was moved by her words as Lsyiscott describes:

These words are spoken

By someone who is simply fed up with the Eurocentric ideals of this season

And the reason I speak a composite version of your language

Is because mines was raped away along with my history

I speak broken English so the profusing gashes can remind us

That our current state is not a mystery

I’m so tired of the negative images that are driving my people mad

So unless you’ve seen it rob a bank stop calling my hair bad

I’m so sick of this nonsensical racial disparity

5) Awareness, ourselves and teaching — what do we as educators do with this knowledge?

Here is a link to a prezi that Lysicott has used at presentations:


6) How to take our linguistic diversity and turn it into power:

This is a linguistic celebration

That’s why I put “tri-lingual” on my last job application

I can help to diversify your consumer market is all I wanted them to know

And when they call me for the interview I’ll be more than happy to show that

I can say:

“What’s good”


And of course …“Hello”

Because I’m “articulate”

I look forward to my class on Friday and to sharing thoughts, feelings and ideas about what all of this means to children, their families and the learning environment in our elementary school classrooms.