African American English

Subject: African American English
From: "George F. Hayhoe" <gfhayhoe -at- SCESCAPE -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 21 Dec 1996 10:13:08 -0500


A list member wrote:

<<How does bad English dignify and preserve African roots? Wouldn't
speaking proper Swahili (Kenya and Tanzania) or other African dialects
serve better? Bad English is bad English and it don't benefit nobody.
Plus who's to say what is standard Ebonics and what isn't? Standard bad

African American English (aka Ebonics) is not BAD English; it is DIFFERENT
English. Making value judgments about languages and dialects is not very
helpful if your purpose is to get at the heart of the matter.

We all speak multiple dialects of at least one language; some of us are
fortunate enough to speak multiple dialects of several languages. The
ability to shift dialects or languages depending upon our audience is what
makes us effective communicators. After all, you wouldn't speak to a
two-year-old the same way you'd speak to a software engineer (hmmm, maybe
that's not such a good example!).

All students need to be able to speak, read, and write the standard dialect
if they want to succeed in life not because that dialect itself is BETTER
than any other, but because it is the STANDARD dialect that bridges the
others. As such, it allows us to communicate effectively with virtually all
English speakers.

I've known a number of people who are linguistically facile enough to shift
from one language or dialect to another to communicate effectively with a
range of individuals. It is truly impressive and moving to see such
communicators in action.

If considering Ebonics a separate language is an effective way of
actualizing this kind of linguistic facility in African American students,
more power to the school board of Oakland and any other place that takes
that approach. If it's this year's educational fad or a symptom of
political correctness, that's a shame.


--George Hayhoe (gfhayhoe -at- scescape -dot- net)

George Hayhoe Associates
Voice: 803-642-2156
Fax: 803-642-9325

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