When most adults hear children or teens using bad grammar and slang, they correct it. Teachers harp on how important using proper English in schools and in writing is. It is an important factor in the American society because it makes people sound educated. The use of big words and proper sentence structure can make the man who knows little seem ingenious. However, when African American Vernacular English, better known as Ebonics, comes into play, it confuses most native English speakers and leads to the assumption that the speaker is uneducated. Nevertheless, In the African American community, our grammar and slang is imbedded so deep that it is not easily shaken. It is our language, our own created form of communication that is important to the fabric of this nation for many reasons. Most importantly, it holds our history and should not be diminished.
Ebonics was birthed in slavery. Imagine being stolen from home by someone who speaks a language that is unfamiliar, and brought thousands of miles from where you belong. Imagine never being taught that unfamiliar language but being forced to live by and take orders by it. Finally, having heard it so much, it becomes understandable, but never being taught it formally, it becomes bits and pieces that is taught verbally through the generations. This was what happened to the typical slave stolen from African when it came to the English language. The African American race has always been resourceful. This race built a nation, all the while creating a language and mastering it to fit their needs and reflect their home.
Ebonics has African patterns. The reason why many of the sentences African Americans say sounds improper or confusing to someone who is not a native speaker is because it has the sentence structure of many of the African languages. When slaves pieced together sentences, they used the same English words as their masters, but the same grammatical rules as their fore fathers. It is, once again, formulated through history.
Ebonics has purpose. This is the way that African Americans talk to each other, even the highly educated African Americans. When a black college student returns home from University, so does his slang and the way he talks to his family. He does not have to put on heirs. However, when he stands before his class mates, the way he would speak to his momma is gone because he is in a business setting. This is called code switching and it has a purpose. It is not to be phony or act “white”, but to be professional. Everyone does this because the golden rule has always been that there is a time and place for everything.
NO ONE SPEAKS PROPER ENGLISH. Americans have their own language. Try reading a story by the puritans and you can see how our language has changed drastically. We no longer speak in the same way that our founding fathers did, which is why students struggle to read things like the Constitution. If an American was to go to Britain, it would be easy to see just how different our language as Americans has become. This, in itself, is the reason why Ebonics should not be belittled because EVERYONE speaks a formulated version of the original American English.
Instead of correcting the students who speak Ebonics, let’s teach them how to use it properly. As adults, we should show the students of today how important their language is to history, just like the other formulated languages of creole and pidgin. Maybe our black students will gain confidence from knowing that the language they have spoken since birth is not wrong and condemned, but uplifted and accepted. Maybe this is the boost they need to understand the importance of education.