The restricted language code

When I did sociology.. oh some 2/3 years ago now… and i got full marks on the education exam paper … It just clicked, because knew why it was so hard for me in school – it became so clear. Something clicked. Exactly like it did when I learnt about the Marxist theory. I’ve always been a Marxist it turned out.. it’s just I never knew what I felt and thought was a theory and had a whole sociological and economical philosophical base and elements to it!
Anyways. I’m sure you know, cuz i’ve put it so much in recent blogs, that I am applying for internships. Writing the “essays” are totally hard going.. draft… after draft. Getting no closer to what is desired [this writing of the blog is as per deterring my attention away from it]

Basil Bernstein identified in 1975 differences between working class and middle class language that influences achievement. He distingushed between two types:

  • The Restricted Code:

This is the speech typically used by the Smizz’s of the world (working class). It has a limited vocab and is often based on short,often unfinished, grammatically simple/incorrect sentences.  Speech is predictable ( yeah/ fo’ shizzle/ innit/ like) and may involve only a single word, even just a gesture.  It is descriptive not analytic. Its context-bound. The speaker assumes the listener has the same set of experiences.

  • The Elaborated Code:

Is typically used by the Middle Class. Obviously, it has a wider vocab; has longer, grammatically more complex sentences. Speech is more varied and can communicate abstract ideas. Its context free and so their language explain explicitily for the listener.

These differences in speech code gives the middle class children more at an advantage and the working class at a disadvantage. This is because the elaborated text is used in text books; exam and by teachers. Not only is this seen as the ‘correct’ way 2 speak and write, but in Bernstien’s view it is a more effective tool for analysing and reasoning and for expressing thoughts clearily and effectively – essential skills in education.

 Now doesn’t that just explain why i’m ridiculed by my lecturer in crit groups? This is besides the point. I’m writing this blog because I’ve just had a restricted language moment. I’m as working class as you get; single parent led-family – My hair is all over; I talk with crazy loads of Likes in the sentences like. I’m alright at writing – but when it comes to communicating verbally – I’m not very good at sounding Middle Class. I’ve just been trying to write a sentence and realised that it was excessively working class Yorkshire and can’t think of how else to re-word the sentence. Now that’s bad when it gets to this. I’ve been told that I make assumptions in my writing and that i’m excessively grammatically uncorrect. [as i’m sure you’ve noticed]. I’ll blame the lattar on my shit English education at secondary school rather than my class.

I know what you’re thinking; how am I at university if my Restricted code has stopped me from understanding exams and stuff. Luckily – I’m trying to educate myself – which is harder as you get older… and we use to depict exam questions for A levels and GCSEs. I have however lost loads of marks just because I didn’t know what the Questions was goin’ on about… and it was something simplistic just made to sound krazy abstract.

As a Marxist would say… making sure that it keeps the weak working class at the bottom and helps the middle class to succeed further. Maintaining the Status Quo.

And this is why I wanna change the Education system. Fo’ Shizzle.

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2 thoughts on “The restricted language code

  1. “I’ll blame the lattar on my shit English education at secondary school rather than my class. […] I know what you’re thinking; how am I at university if my Restricted code has stopped me from understanding exams and stuff. Luckily – I’m trying to educate myself – which is harder as you get older…”

    Can definitely empathise with this. I had a fairly shit Norn Irish education, but made it into university and am now finishing off a postgraduate degree in a pretty decent place.

    I frequently get the piss taken out of me because of my accent, and occasionally sense I’m inferior because every time I open my mouth it doesn’t sound like I’m about to make a political speech on the BBC. But really who cares? I reckon the important thing is really following your interests and remembering to be a decent human being. Can be tricky at times when you’re surrounded by authoritarian bastards.

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