In short, no. People tend to have strong feelings about variations in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar, and dialect is sometimes labelled as ‘incorrect,’ ‘bad’ or even ‘lazy’. While we’re taught in school that there’s only one right way of putting words together, this couldn’t be further from the truth. All dialects are equally valid and have developed alongside each other over the course of English’s long history.
In fact, most regional dialects are much older than so-called ‘Standard English’. They are therefore closer to the way English was spoken in the past. The English language has never been just one thing, however. It has varied from the time when it first developed, and has been changing ever since, absorbing influences from many different sources over time.
Harold Orton was one of the professors who designed the Survey of English Dialects. He was interested in dialect as a window on the language of the past – and that’s why they went to isolated villages and talked to older people who had lived there all of their lives. Some of the people interviewed would have been born in the 1870s!
A written standard is useful, it’s true, but the reason we think of some ways of speaking as being ‘better’ than others has much more to do with power and status than with language itself. If we overlook or discount regional dialects of English, we lose a cultural treasure trove and a fascinating window onto the past. Variety is the spice of life, after all!