Recently I listened to my friend as she did a mock presentation for her dissertation defense. I love having these opportunities because I am able to learn a lot about a topic without having to do the research and read a ton of books to understand an issue. She was discussing teachers use of African American Venacular English (AAVE), to me, also known as “ebonics”. What I took away from her presentation is to check myself when it comes down to assessing communication abilities.
Proper English…Weed Out Mechanism
My friends lifelong research is about validating cultural communication variances and dismantling the use of standard english as the only “right way” to speak or be heard.
One example she used was “she be going to the store”. I immediately laughed out loud because I knew where she was going with the topic.
One of her students said “Ms. X, ‘don’t she be going to the store?’ is a correct sentence” She told the student “yes.” My friend the researcher explained that for students that speak AAVE, “she be going…” means that is something the noun does all the time and that “she be going” is the way to emphasize the action, and its meaning implies that not only does she go to the store, but she ALWAYS goes to the store”.
In that moment, I saw the beauty in what I have spent time critiquing, turning my nose up at, and trying to “correct.” Cultural language speakers have learned how to communicate feelings, expressions, and happenings in a way that sometimes can only be narrated, capitalized, or even repeated when trying to explain in standard english.
I felt liberated as I began to understand how the “proper use of english” has become another method to lower the self-esteem and dreams of those that struggle with accepted grammar. I am excited to know that there were scholars fighting for acceptance of cultural speech and its relevance.
Have you had any experiences with feeling ashamed of the way you speak? Have you ever worked with students that could deliver great content, but did not have the standard mechanics to get the A or recognition they deserved? If so, how did you handle this?
Below is a site that provides more background on the topic. Please share if you have more…..
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