"To be fully literate means to be able to choose and use a wide variety of dialects and registers, effectively and appropriately, according to the functions and purposes of the private and public contexts that we find ourselves in." (adapted from Gordon Wells)
In this definition ... I understand dialect to refer to the ‘way that we speak’, which is often determined by our position in the social structure. In other words, we expect dialect to be linked to class, ethnicity or other sub-cultural variables. Register I understand to be determined by function and audience —we say things in different ways according to our purpose and the nature of the social activity we are engaged in. The emphasis on choosing and using is a reminder that the more dialects and registers that we have access to, the more literate and therefore the more powerful we can be in the world. Effectively and appropriately reminds us that our choices are often constrained by cultural rules and codes that determine which registers and dialects are appropriate in different modes of communication and cultural locations. Private and public is an affirmation of the importance of preparing our students to be powerful in public arenas as well as in their intimate moments of loving and sharing within families and local communities. And contexts, of course, reminds us that language is always situational and can in my opinion only be acquired and developed situationally.
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