African American English Vernacular in Education

D5
 
August 19, 2013 6:45 PM

 I am currently conducting research on the topic of African American English in education (or the “African American English Vernacular”, or “Ebonics”, or whatever term you prefer) to gain a better insight into the linguistic experiences of African American students in different educational settings. Since the teachers’ lack of understanding of English vernaculars and the disadvantaging treatment (whether it be done consciously or unconsciously) of African American English speakers can have numerous other negative consequences (e.g. denial of challenging academic instruction, labeling as learning disabled, denial of funding etc.) it remains an extremely important topic up to this day. Yet, it often continues to be overlooked. I wanted to use this discussion to find out what you guys and girls think about it. In order to have a basis of discussion, I would suggest filling out the survey I prepared, so that I can share the overall outcome and average with you afterwards, which might make discussions more interesting. So I would really appreciate if you could spare about 5 minutes to quickly reminisce about your childhood and tell me about your own linguistic experiences at school (no matter your current age; and you do not necessarily need to be an African American English speaker yourself, you just need to have an opinion on the topic, that’s all) by answering the nine short questions of my survey:

 

http://aaenglish.wufoo.com/forms/q7x4a9/
 

 

(By the way, since this is a public survey of mine for which I decided to give away a $25 Amazon gift card as a thank you and a little reimbursement for the trouble, you’d have also the chance to enter the raffle – entering for the gift card is optional though.)

 

 

 

...

 

If you absolutely don’t feel like answering anonymously and confidentially as you would by replying within the actual wufoo.com version of the survey and you don't want to wait for the final results to get a better sense of the overall average, you are, of course also welcome to openly reply to the questions right here, if that’s what you prefer. Here’s what I would like to know:

#1) Basic information: Age, gender and where did you attend school (elementary, middle, and high school)?

 

#2) Do you speak African American English?

a) No, not at all (I don’t know how to speak it)

b) No, but I know how to speak it

c) Only in certain situations / in a certain environment / with certain people

d) Yes, most of the time

e) Yes, (almost) all the time

f) Other:

 

#3) In what setting (e.g. home, circle of friends, school) did you learn African American English and how did you acquire the English “standard”? Briefly explain.

 

#4) At school [elementary/middle/high school], did you or someone else ever feel that your African American English form of speech posed a language barrier for you in one way or another?

a) No

b) Yes (Briefly explain)

 

#5) At school [elementary/middle/high school], did you ever feel discriminated or at disadvantage as a result of your African American English form of speech? If so, did you ever voice this problem?

a) No, I never felt discriminated or at disadvantage as a result of AAE

b) Yes, I felt discriminated or at disadvantage as a result of AAE. (Briefly explain)

 

#6) As an African American English speaker: How was your language treated at school? (By teachers, African American students, non-African American students, the school administration or other employees.) Please explain.

 

#7) Do you think that African American English should be taught at school [elementary/middle/high school]? If so, why?

a) No, absolutely not

b) Yes, just like Standard English is taught to/expected of African Americans, African American English should be taught to non-African American students

c) African American English should be explicitly covered in one form or another as an official topic in order to improve students' cultural knowledge

d) Other:

 

#8) Are you aware of programs specifically designed for African American English speakers offered by your former school (e.g. to acquire Standard English), or have you maybe even benefited from one yourself?

a) No, my school did not offer any, at least none that I’m aware of. Also, I don’t think there is any need

b) No, my school did not offer any, at least none that I’m aware of; but I think they should

c) Yes, my school offered programs designed to help African American English speakers and I took part in one

d) Yes, my school offered programs designed to help African American English speakers but I did not take part in any

e) Other:

 

#9) Final thoughts: In your opinion, what does the ideal classroom look like (in regards to how African American English is handled by students, teachers, etc.)? What might be the benefits of programs designed specifically for African American English speakers? From what age and until what age do you think they could be beneficial? Last but not least, are there any other thoughts you would like to add on this topic as a whole?

 
 
 
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August 19, 2013 7:46 PM

Can you kindly restate your request in AAEV (“African American English Vernacular”) or your choice of Nilo-Saharan languages?

 
 
 
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A1
 
August 19, 2013 8:42 PM

See, this is how the events in this society of late (such as the gutting of the voting rights act and the murder of Trayvon Martin,) have emboldened even the more cowardly of krakkka scum to approach any random Black 'gathering place' (or what they may believe is...) in an attempt to treat it as a petri dish.

 

I woud say f*ck you, but I don't use that language.

 

But by all means, ask your k-9 ancestors (there's a proven fact,) what languages they ..........'speak'. 

 

My 2cents. 

 

 

 

   

 
 
 
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A1
 
August 19, 2013 10:28 PM

I've never in my life heard of any such thing as "African-American English".  A person either speaks English or he/she doesn't.  Case closed.

 
 
 
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D5
 
August 20, 2013 6:58 AM

@Norland: I absolutely agree, actually! I'm not implying in any way that the African American English Vernacular (though often refered to – both in black and white communities – as 'Ebonics', I'm intentionally not using the latter term because it includes a wider group of people and is occasionally appointed a slightly negative connotation, again by both African Americans and whites, which I don't think is fair, really) is not English. Neither am I implying in any way that every African American speaks it. But just there is obviously a difference between British English, American English, Canadian English even, like you can sometimes tell whether someone is from California, Alabama or Chicago, or like there other cultural varieties like New York Latino English, Chicano English, Pennsylvania Dutch English etc. African-American Vernacular English does of course exist and has been proven as a legitamite English variety decades ago (which is a good thing!). In fact, I'm absolutely convinced that there is no such thing as an "English Standard" in general, because it's nothing but a purely theoretical and artificial concept that does not exist in reality; linguists often refer to the "standard" as the public dialect of wider communication, which means that whatever this "white" "standard" dialect of English is supposed to be (if there was such thing) it would be a variety of English just like all the ones that I named above...which therefore also means that no one form of English is better than the other!! They are ALL English and equally correct!

@roarin1: I did not mean to upset anyone in any way and this was in fact not a completely "random" approach of "any random Black 'gathering place'" because I genuinely believed that the whole idea was a plattform of meeting and for discussing without racism or agression of any kind. And while the actual creation of these questions was in fact triggered by some research I'm doing, it is, overall, so much more as it is a topic that I've been extremely interested for a very long time. And because I do honestly think that the linguistic variation of English in general is an important topic that's still often overlooked in education (and one of the causes for many existing stereotypes, unfortunately) I simply intended to trigger an interesting discussion on this board to get other persons' opinion too, because I do very much value them, that's all. Gotta start somewhere, or at least so I thought.

 
 
 
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A1
 
August 20, 2013 7:59 AM

CHoff these Caucasians are giving me the MAJOR vapors.  They're always categorizing us.  There are white people in this country that speak Whionics.  They can't talk worth a damn or spell either.  We pick up the speech patterns of our parents.  When the "slaves" were "freed" they weren't allowed to be taught any damn thing for what, 300 years?  We're "lucky" to be where we are in this K-9 environment.  I have to take these people with a half of grain of salt.  Let me tell you this:  I think these transplanted Europeans are INSANE.  I'm sorry they even discovered Africa was on the GD planet.  It's a damn shame that "Back at the Barnyard" on NickToons, a program for 7 year old children gives me more entertainment than any thing they're showing on network television, music or anything else.  I'm just so happy that none of my family members have been killed by some miscreant white or black and that we have love for each other.  Whoever wanted that survey above asked everything except what color drawers we wear.  The nerve!!!!

 
 
 
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D5
 
August 20, 2013 10:16 AM

Haha, I love the term “Whionics”. And yes, I think you’re absolutely right, there are way too many whites who don’t talk or spell properly. By categorizing them as ‘Whionic’ speakers, does that mean that you equally think of actual ‘Ebonic’ speakers as individuals who “can’t talk worth a damn or spell” either? Or did I misunderstand you there? Because, again, that’s not at all what I was saying myself –– considering that someone who chooses to speak the African American English Vernacular is in fact using “correct” grammar and spelling (i.e. the grammar, spelling and pronunciation of AAVE, which is totally legitimate and is only considered as “incorrect” because it differs from “white” speech and has, like dialects/language varieties in general, in many peoples' minds –black and white– a lot of stereotypes that come with it). There is a linguist, Merrit Ruhlen, who pointed out the hypothetical example that had history been reverse and had Africans founded America, enslaved Europeans, had Europeans now been the minority group in the US, AAVE would have been the “correct”/proper form of speech and the African American majority would be insisting on the “incorrectness” of ‘Standard English’. So, the current situation is based on nothing but  a – lets call it – bad historical accident. Which means that I personally don’t think of AAVE as a bad thing at all; it’s a miracle, one that required a lot of effort and work (due to the fact that Blacks were thrown into this New World in the worst possible way, in complete isolation, that slave schools were prohibited just like school attendance later etc). That’s why I personally don’t think of an AAVE speaker as someone who doesn’t know better, or of AAVE as “bad English” as many, many African American celebrities (Bill Cosby etc.) have called it. It’s a part of African American history and culture and an enrichment of the English language. And that’s also why I personally think that it should be taken into consideration in terms of education, at least in some form or another – hence the survey. But from what you wrote I take it you have a different opinion…?

 
 
 
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A1
 
August 20, 2013 12:40 PM

“I've never in my life heard of any such thing as "African-American English".  A person either speaks English or he/she doesn't.  Case closed.”

 

Excellent point. There is correct and incorrect English. You can articulate the language correctly or you cannot. Doesn't make you a bad person if you cannot speak it correctly. It simply means you cannot for various reasons (e.g. cultural, social, educational, physical, etc)……

 
 
 
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August 21, 2013 12:13 AM

Has anyone done any research on the correlation between Ebonics and READING?

 

How can a Black child read well and not be able to use standard English reasonably well? 

 

To me defending Ebonics sounds a lot like defending ignorance.  I say select a popular African language and Black Americans learn that and American English.  Make it part of a Pan African policy for North America, South America and Africa.  But how many Africans would agree on a language?

 

Xum

 
 
 
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August 21, 2013 12:42 AM

Originally Posted by Xeon:
"articulate . . . you cannot for various reasons (e.g. cultural, social...) 

“I've never in my life heard of any such thing as "African-American English".  A person either speaks English or he/she doesn't.  Case closed.”

 

Excellent point. There is correct and incorrect English. You can articulate the language correctly or you cannot. Doesn't make you a bad person if you cannot speak it correctly. It simply means you cannot for various reasons (e.g. cultural, social, educational, physical, etc)……

 

 
 
 
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A1
 
August 21, 2013 9:45 PM

"To me defending Ebonics sounds a lot like defending ignorance." 

 

Very true.......

 
 
 
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August 22, 2013 7:10 PM

Sure, we need to master more. However, so called Ebonics also delivers the pulse of life. It brought the concept of “cool” to white people and launched the hipster, beatnik, hip-hop and recent movements which many white folks in their hunger to find life - embrace as their life style. The African grain from textiles: http://blog.peruvianconnection...11/11/Kuba-Cloth.jpg

to Jazz to many lively contributions to Whionics (as spoofed from Pryor to Chapelle) sustains the Euro-African American culture.  Not mere ignorance but LIFE. What’s behind it all is the rhythm of creation itself! These Roots are Holy!  What some may consider a weakness is also a great strength. It needs to be channeled and used and exalted.  We have great gifts and need to master it all. What’s it gonna take? But  let us not undersell the unoque African genius and its connection to the pulse of life and creation.  

 
Originally Posted by Xumbrarchist:

Has anyone done any research on the correlation between Ebonics and READING?

 

How can a Black child read well and not be able to use standard English reasonably well? 

 

To me defending Ebonics sounds a lot like defending ignorance.  I say select a popular African language and Black Americans learn that and American English.  Make it part of a Pan African policy for North America, South America and Africa.  But how many Africans would agree on a language?

 

Xum

 

 
 
 
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August 23, 2013 11:44 AM

First, what African-American English Vernacular?  Do you mean the slang language of African American youth that falsely propagandized as being how ALL African Americans  speak?  Or do you mean the southern-English that is really spoken by many southerners of any race, that African Americans carried with them to the North and other parts of the country during the great migration and thereafter?  Or do you mean how, regardless of the fact that the vast majority of Americans do not speak correct English anyway, yet, it is only African Americans that a singled out to have their "vernacular" dissected and condemned?

 
 
 
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August 23, 2013 1:36 PM

  It's a wonder we can SPEAK at all.  Considering the circumstances of our survival.  They didn't put slaves in school to learn the eliquette[sp] of white language to communicate with them.  They trained or broke us to be obedient[submissively in fear]...if we UNDERSTOOD what they said or not!  The mere fact that we were able to formulate a speech apparpus[sp] to socialize and conduct our slave duties is SHORT OF a focking miracle.

 

 Sooooooooooo just like other homosapians misplaced or those who migrated from  or left their environment,  we created our language many refer to as ebonics [since being slaves it was totally forbidden for us to speak in our original tongues].  I reject the term ebonics.   I see it as another branch of communication of our ancestors [something else they left to us loving]  since every one want to IGNORE the whys of how ebonics (or our broken dialect) derived.   Plus  I disagree that ebonics signifies lack of intelligence or is "ignorant' cuz truth be TOLD it wasn't tooooo ignorant when it served the purpose of the "master."  As why if you will,  we spoke in TWO tongues:  one for massa and one for us.  Sooooooo to me, it is a total disrespect to our ancestors to minimize the tool we had to use to get by.  If anything, there should be a study as to how "slaves" were able to construct such an elaborent[sp] communication system without being so-called educated. [which this form of language created by "blacks" (in America) has touched the souls of many whatever color (worldwide) and why is it culturally popular today!]

 

The thing is yall....most peoples who create language....many of 'em weren't EDUCATED.  They just did it based on primal needs.  And as a result language evolved.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist to determine that!  But!          

 
 
 
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August 23, 2013 3:20 PM

I don't necessarily reject what is called "ebonics" or at least what the author of the book published on the subject trying to explain the "vernacular(s)".  However, I do believe that most people misunderstand the author's intentions in writing the book, etc., in the first place.  I do reject how it is implied that it is only Black people that speak any particular "vernacular" in the first place, when the truth is that "vernacular" varies dependent on whether or not you are from the north or the south or the west coast or the mid-west, then even more so what region you are from in each of these areas.  It is not only Black people that speak in any particular "vernacular", however, it IS only Black people that are stereotyped as being the only ones to do so.  Ebonics is to American English what American English is to British English; it's as simple as that.  So, if ALL Black people are to be so persecuted for SOME Black people's use of a particular "vernacular", then ALL Americans need to be persecuted for using American English. 

What African Americans need to do when people even mention Ebonics, is ask if they actually read the book, then they need to remind people that Black youth slang is not the way ALL Black people speak, the same goes for each and every damn Black character stereotype seen in a movie or on a tv show. 

 

Then, Black people need to ask, why is it such a "problem" or a "problem understanding" when it is someone Black that speaks in the so-called Black "vernacular", while these same people a silent on the fact that this so-called "Black vernacular"/dialect, etc., is really no different than the way people that are not Black speak in the deep south, [which is where it was learned and who Black people learned it from in the first place]. 

 

Then Black people need to point out that everywhere in the world that the African slaves was taken, their descendants speak the official language just like everyone else, with the exception of Black people that happen to have been taken to the deep south of North America.  Could it be that this is the way those who the Black people learned to speak from actually spoke themselves? 

 
 
 
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August 23, 2013 3:51 PM

Sista Sunnubian wrote:  

Then, Black people need to ask, why is it such a "problem" or a "problem understanding" when it is someone Black that speaks in the so-called Black "vernacular", while these same people a silent on the fact that this so-called "Black vernacular"/dialect, etc., is really no different than the way people that are not Black speak in the deep south, [which is where it was learned and who Black people learned it from in the first place].

 

Exactly!!! My sista.  This is more than a slander if you will.  And by the way, no I didn't read the book.  Got toooo much in my head already...but!  Nevertheless you hit it on the head....black people LEARNED whatever language they are currently speaking from WHITE PEOPLE.  And in a lot of massa household, they didn't permit their slaves to speak the [proper] English language....only broken dialect.  Cuz to do so meant you as a slave thought you were better! "How dare you," massa would say.  "So let me put you BACK in your place."  Not to say that Blacks didn't know how to speak proper English in the first place cuz they were around massa 24/7 how could they NOT?   Remember a lot of times, we didn't even want massa to know we could read. But I do think that the way we talk is something that we wanted of our own....since at one time we didn't even own ourselves.

 

Then Black people point out that everywhere in the world that the African slaves was taken, their descendants speak the official language just like everyone else, with the exception of Black people that happen to have been taken to the deep south of North America.  Could it be that this is the way those who the Black people learned to speak from actually spoke themselves? 

 

That would be a YEP!!!!  But they turned it around on us to make it appear that we are the ignorant ones.  Just a side note:  The term pig latin was used to keep other from knowing what was being said.  So they played with the English vowels and used it to interject inside real words to caused confusion.  Well....this is how language is developed.  Back when they did it...it was okay. And considered smart.  The technique was also used in circuses and carnivals  to keep audiences out of the loop.    I just get angry when they try and continue to isolate this as a black thang.  Cuz it definitely not.  I call it a HUMAN thang.  But! 

 
Last edited by Kocolicious August 23, 2013 3:56 PM
 
 
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August 24, 2013 2:14 AM

Originally Posted by Xeon:

"To me defending Ebonics sounds a lot like defending ignorance." 

 

Very true.......

Xeon, I’ve come to appreciate how you think you’re smarter than black folks. I see how you’re attracted by the culture and how you’re also freaked out by it.  What’s up with that?

 
 
 
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A1
 
August 24, 2013 8:00 AM

The real IGNORANCE was initiated when the anus orifices decided to go to the continent of Africa to kidnap the occupants for a damn Slave Trade.  The palest folks on the planet would have been in a better place if they'd trained their DOGS to nip that damn cotton.  They can train them to jump through hoops, dance and damn near sing in circuses.  I wish the hell they'd never seen an African ever and I'll bet they wish the same now.  The palest went to the darkest and now we have millions of muppets hating, killing and puking whenever we look at each other; flucked each other and now we're all RELATED to each other and calling each other the fowlest of names.

 
 
 
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