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ERIC Number: EJ877778
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 51
ISSN: ISSN-0013-1849
Pidgin in the Classroom
Siegel, Jeff
Educational Perspectives, v41 n1-2 p55-65 2008
Like plate lunches, aloha shirts, and lei, Pidgin is an important part of local identity in Hawai'i. While some people still think of Pidgin as "broken English," many now realize that it is a distinct creole language, similar to others that have developed in multilingual environments, and call it Hawai'i Creole or HCE (Hawai'i Creole English). Pidgin is integral to the development of modern Hawai'i and therefore it is surprising that there is nothing about it in the school curriculum. Even more surprising, however, is that in many schools, Pidgin is frowned upon and the language is kept out of the classroom. In some cases, Pidgin is even denigrated, and its speakers constantly corrected. But even when there is no overt negative treatment, teaching is often done completely in standard English as if Pidgin did not exist. In either case, Pidgin-speaking students are not allowed to express themselves in the language they feel most comfortable with. Again, this is surprising, since teachers and educational administrators normally have the interests of their students at heart, and want to do what's best for them. Most teachers would never think of putting their students down because of their ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Yet, when it comes to language, many teachers and administrators seem to abandon these principles--especially with regard to Pidgin--and these practices are supported by parents and the general community. Why is this? Part of the answer is that the acquisition of standard English is considered to be one of the most important goals of formal education. Most people in Hawai'i see a knowledge of standard English as the key to academic and economic success, and Pidgin as the greatest obstacle to the acquisition of this knowledge. Therefore it seems logical to avoid Pidgin at all costs, especially in the schools. In this article, the author examines some of the reasons behind current practices and looks at whether they are justified according to research into language varieties and alternative educational programs that do make use of vernaculars such as Pidgin. These reasons fall into three categories: (1) beliefs about the nature of Pidgin; (2) confusion about the nature of educational programs that would use Pidgin; and (3) concerns that the use of Pidgin in schools would be detrimental to students' acquisition of standard English. The author then discusses some of the potential benefits of alternative programs. (Contains 1 table and 2 endnotes.)
College of Education, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Wist Annex 2 Room 131, 1776 University Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96822. Tel: 808-956-8002; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Hawaii