What is Ebonics? Is it a language or not? Ebonics, referred to as black English, is a
language with clearly evident African American roots. It has been found that, when
learning English, African-Americans adapted the language using some of the structure
and rules of their own native tongue. This Black English has carried on through slavery
and then freedom for hundreds of years. Though often incorrectly defined as a language,
it really is a nonstandard dialect spoken in many homes in the inner cities of America.
Ebonics is not a separate language, but a slightly different form of another
language which is English. Ebonics is vastly different from a real foreign language such
as Japanese, Italian, or Russian. Japanese, for example, has a completely different
alphabet, sentence structure, words, and sounds than English; while Ebonics basically
uses the same alphabet, words and sounds as English. The only difference between
Ebonics and English is that some pronunciations of words, spelling, and grammar are
Ebonics is a dialect. People from all over the United States speak the same
language, English, but different dialects, compare the New Yorkan to the Chicagoan, or
compare Southerners way of speaking to Bostonians. Ultimately, Ebonics speaking
individuals can understand English speaking individuals and vice versa. In the United
States, many people of different ethnic groups have a language or dialect spoken at home
which was passed down through the generations. Ebonics is one of these dialects.
The teaching of Ebonics which was intended to reach out to black students,
actually holds black youth back. Educators say that others who have perfected standard
English will have the competitive edge over Ebonic speaking black students. In the real
world, companies will preferably hire individuals who have mastered the standard
language of society. For example, two applicants are equally qualified for a specific job,
but one speaks perfect English, while the other speaks Ebonics or any other form of
nonstandard English. Who will get the job? The answer is simple. The applicant who
speaks perfect English will be hired because the person's means of communication is
much more valued and effective in American society.
Ebonics, if needed, just as a teaching tool to help instruct the student in standard
English. First, the teacher must realize that a student's dialect does not suggest anything
profound about his or her intellect, and also given the proper motivation, anyone has the
ability to alter or add to a dialect without a considerable amount of effort. If Ebonics can
be used effectively in helping a child learn standard English easier and faster then it
should be used. But, if Ebonics only hinders the process of learning standard English,
then it should be put aside and more effective means should be applied.
Modern technology has eradicated many of our regional and local dialects. People
move around more, which makes for a blending of accents and vocabularies. Television,
radio and the movies have all done their part to equalize the language. As a consequence,
we have lost dialects that will never return, such as the way English was spoken around
the turn of the century. But despite centuries of active effort, Ebonics has not faded away,
and it does not appear likely that it will.
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