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Issues in Applied Linguistics

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More than Just a Hammer: Building Linguistic Toolkits


The movement in national educational policy towards teaching a singular, non-accented American Standard English reached a crescendo with the Arizona Board of Education’s attempt to prevent any teacher with a “heavy accent” or “ungrammatical” speech from teaching English. We suggest that part of what underlies the fears that were articulated in Arizona are ideologies about language learning (as well as about language itself). We challenge those ideologies as we present a model of language development and curriculum that recognizes and affirms the multiple tools or “repertoires of linguistic practice” that all young people possess. Our research suggests that when students are supported in examining their various language practices, the insights they gain will help them work towards mastery over all of their linguistic “tools,” including those tools that are most valued by dominant society.

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