When I told my mother I wanted to study linguistics, it was pretty obvious she couldn’t understand why. “I thought you wanted to study English and literature?” Of course, she couldn’t realize the two pair nicely together with linguistics. What do I think the most fascinating part of learning linguistics is? Unlearning all my bad behaviors and assumptions about language. I was raised with the intent that I should be judgmental, racists, anti-intellectual, or uncaring in general. But we are always a product of our environments and its hard not to internalize certain viewpoints regardless of good intentions. How’s the saying go? The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
But all misinformation in the world has one surefire solution – it can always be unlearned through education. That is not to say it can be removed completely. With the way our world is structured it’s impossible not to let intrusive assumptions bounce around the interior of our minds now and again. However, by understanding the motivation behind these assumptions and thoughts, we can at least root them out and face them head on. When I was younger I would have been quick to say I judged others for the quality of their grammar, their speech, their language mannerisms. I might have made observations and determined tehri were racial in origin, because of class or education, or some other immutable characteristic (something that is natural and unchangeable such as race or sexual orientation).
Thanks to linguistics, to understanding and being educated on the history of English, and in great part thanks to specific historical courses on different social and cultural groups, I’ve been able to grow as a student and citizen in this world in ways that make me less likely to judge another for their language features. And this information in turn makes it possible for me to educated others who are open to it and willing to listen. I’m excited to learn even more specifics about the variety of dialects in this country and their unique features as we continue the course.