A Language A Day Keeps Ignorance at Bay

Before reading these articles the only thing I knew about African American Language is that it sounds different than what is seen as traditional English. I had no idea that it combines African grammar with English vocabulary. While I am quick to accept Delpit’s suggestion that we view African American Languge as different than, but not inferior to Standard American English, I wonder if that comes more out of my thirst for equality over anything, seeing as I was so ill-informed on the language itself, now, I still stick to the same stance, but at least have a better foundation for explaining why that is.

Ball and Lowe point out that what a lot of teachers may see as mistakes in English are really not that at all, but instead are formations caused by switching between languages with different rules. These are things to note but not criticize. While the origin of African American Language does not have one clear-cut origin, standard English does not as well. There is a reason the plural of goose is geese but the plural of moose isn’t meese, and this has to do with the language of origin related to both of those words. Language is a living entity in that it evolves over time. Shakespeare used words and phrases that today have no clear-cut definition, yet we do not deny his works their status and significance as often as we do African American Language.

The point of language, to me. and the point of English to me are one and the same in that the goal of both is to communicate, that is it. The goal of both is to express something to another or to convey something to someone. So while African American Language may remove the verb to be from its sentences, the phrase “She read” does not in any way negate the fact that based on the words used the reader can more likely than not understand the idea that somebody is reading.

April Baker-Bell points out how language is weaponized today against the African American community in the media and how groups like Black Youth Project and Dream Defenders work in opposition to this. Yet, there is much work to be done, as many teachers leave educational training programs not recognizing that this is a form of English with roots that can be traced back generations and has roots in Scottish, Irish, and other world Englishes and that to me speaks volumes as to why English cannot be the official language of America, as there isn’t even one set in stone version of English to begin with. 

Alvarez points out that America has 325 recognized languages, however truthfully I expect it to be more, I’d bet we’re approaching one for every day of the year. With this being said, I understand the desire to have one official language for ease of operation and communication in America. Yet, the beauty in America is in the diversity of the culture. The fact that Americans today can travel from New Jersey, move to Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and New York and notice changes in the language used in each place is a beautiful thing as it speaks to the rich heritage of the nation as a whole. Alvarez points out that immigrants learn English quicker now than at any other point in history, and while this is a incredible, I wish now more than ever that I had paid more attention during the world language classes I was given in my educational experiences.

This is an area I have little knowledge of and while these articles were all comprehensive, I think they were only scratching the surface regarding what I still need to learn on the subject.