As a native Californian I have a peculiar skill that I find almost impossible to pass on to my little Okie students. I can say “hen” and “pen” with an “e” sound that is distinguishable from the “i” sound in “him” and “pin”. Try as I might, I can’t get my students to hear or replicate that. Not going to happen. There is no short “e” sound in the Okie language.
After being here for nineteen years I have developed a somewhat southern drawl of my own, and I’ve gotten lazy about some word endings and such. But my little ones are growing up with some speech patterns that will stay with them for life. Many already draw out every vowel sound until “well” sounds more like “wa-a-e-ll” . And they are perfectly happy to adopt the generally accepted grammar and word usage of the south. They say “ain’t” and “he don’t” and “fixin’ to”.
While none of these habits is life threatening or even harmful, especially if my students remain in the south, it does hamper their early reading ability AND I believe it lowers their scores on some standardized tests. That last belief is based on the fact that most standardized language tests include some strict phonics testing, and they are timed. My young students miss many of the words that have “i” as the vowel, and they do poorly on timed tests because they talk so slow. You should hear some of my students identifying the alphabet! A-a-a, B-e-e, C-e-e, D-e-e-…throw in a couple of pauses and “uh” here and there and the alphabet can take twice as long as it should! Lol
I say all of this not to make fun of my students or to denigrate the south and its culture, but to make the point that it IS a culture, and things like local language practices should be considered when we are trying to lump every child in America together and somehow ensure that they all make the same score on the same standardized test. Never going to happen folks. Ain’t possible.