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English as a Foreign Language in the United States
Capitalism Magazine ^ | July 19, 2005 | Thomas Sowell

Posted on 07/20/2005 3:05:58 AM PDT by Smile-n-Win

A recent e-mail from a dedicated teacher illustrates a problem that has received far too little attention.

In her kindergarten class was a little black girl who did well except for getting a very obvious question wrong. It turned out that the little girl had no problem with the concepts or the facts but had misinterpreted a word because it sounded like another word that she had heard used at home, where a "black English" dialect was spoken.

Since the teacher was white, she knew that she was running a risk by getting into this issue. Opening this can of worms could result in anything from being called a "racist" to an ugly confrontation at school or in court.

Nevertheless, the teacher told the girl's mother that, unless her daughter learned standard English, her education could suffer and her intelligence might be so under-estimated that she could be falsely labeled subnormal.

(Excerpt) Read more at capmag.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: education; english; gaelic; historicaljustice; irish; language; linguistics; multiculturalism; newfoundland; racism; school; scots
A keeper.
1 posted on 07/20/2005 3:05:58 AM PDT by Smile-n-Win
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To: Smile-n-Win
An obvious fact that, as Sowell points out, can become politically charged because of those who want to capitalize from this problem.

-Eric

2 posted on 07/20/2005 3:33:30 AM PDT by E Rocc (Anyone who thinks Bush-bashing is banned on FR has never read a Middle East thread >:))
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To: Smile-n-Win

I am a full time ESL teacher who also has an extra curricular duty of running a Highland Pipe Band.

The history of so called, " Black English" mentioned in the article is true, that it came with white settlers in the Southern USA.. What the article omitted to say was that the white settlers who spoke precursor " Black English" were Irish and Scottish. Many Irish and Scots intermarried with American natives and Black slaves, many of these Irish and Scots were slaves themselves , or indentured servants.

Why am I posting this arcane bit of linguistic history?

It is because I grew up speaking "Black English" in Canada, being from a blue collar Irish family, and knew that if I wanted to succeed in life as a professional, I would need to master a new form of "higher English."

Like Black folks though, I did not feel good about that
because it meant the language of my birth, which had evolved as a mix between Gaelic and English, was
low, or somehow obscene. Despite being able to express my self in not only American higher English, I learned to speak the Queens English and all forms of address
necessary to appear before a provincial Supreme Court in Canada:

" If m'lord wishes, might he step carefully outside, mi'lords entry way is very icy this day!"

So if a dumb Scots/Irish like me could do that, the only obstacle to all speakers of Black English is the political
correctness issue itself, and the false concept of "historical justice".

Black children, Black English speakers, and Newfoundlanders ( perhaps the most vociferous of black english speakers)need not abandon their native home language, they simply need to enrich themselves with a wider range of language skills.

"Yo' mama! She know ah like yo' moves!" Black English

" I luvs ya like me own fadder, me son, an if ya haul to me
defrigitator, ders a bot'l of Black 'Arse ( Black Horse Beer) a' th' bak" Newfoundlander English

Das it Smile-n-win!

Slainte Math ( gaelic)


3 posted on 07/20/2005 3:34:55 AM PDT by Candor7 (Into Liberal Flatulence Goes the Hope of the West)
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To: Candor7
I grew up speaking "Black English" in Canada, being from a blue collar Irish family, and knew that if I wanted to succeed in life as a professional, I would need to master a new form of "higher English."
You refer only to the article; have you seen Sowell's book on the subject Black Rednecks and White Liberals? I highly recommend it. Highly.

You say you teach ESL. In the US or in Canada? You could be of real use in the US. Maybe you could contribute to the narration of an audio disk version of Sowell's book! That would be wonderful!


4 posted on 07/20/2005 4:29:59 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion (The idea around which liberalism coheres is that NOTHING actually matters but PR.)
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To: Smile-n-Win

I am still trying to explain to farmer Brown that a hoe to blacks isnt an instrument to work the garden with.


5 posted on 07/20/2005 4:37:03 AM PDT by sgtbono2002
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To: Candor7

Interesting...since all I've ever read about Ebonics ("Black English") is that the problem arose from slaves from Africa applying their native interpretations to the language of the Americas...many blacks say that the insistence by some blacks in dropping the "s" at the end of an English language word is a reminent of a few African native language pronunciations, and it's simply become trendy (a social statement, an insistence on a cultural basis to refuse to pronounce words correctly in English in a sort of insistence upon deformity of the language itself due to cultural concerns) to do so now.

As in, saying, "breakfass" instead of "breakfast," and similar.

Additionally, that the "we be going" Ebonic-level expression (and similar) -- versus saying, as proper English requires, "we are going" and/or "we go" -- is also a carryover of how the predominant African native languages were/still are used. Although I'm not as I write this in touch with what African languages were most common among Africans brought as slaves to the Americas centuries ago, but that the issue isn't which language/s but that the method of speaking -- how to express what in spoken words -- was reapplied to English once learned by earlier immigrants and that's how/where the verbal expressions arose (and upon which has later been deemed to be "Ebonics" by some from a cultural perspective, although it's been established that "Ebonics" is a nonsensical term since it represents/defines no language, no dialect, but often nonsense for socio-cultural purposes, most often not well intended).

As to the first point (the dropping of the "t" in pronouncing English language words by some as a cultural mispeak of English)...in earlier England, it was a similar problem that began by "Cockney" mispronunciations, in which they dropped leading "h"s on English words in their speech...saying, most notoriously, "erbs" instead of "herbs."

And "herbs" -- with a hard "h" pronounced -- is the actually proper pronunciation of that word, while saying, "erbs" is incorrect in properly prononced English...it was only the Cockney regional dialect that started the mispronounced use of that word, as with others (given their dropped leading "h"s on words, still in practice today).


6 posted on 07/20/2005 4:37:29 AM PDT by BIRDS
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To: Candor7

Scots and Irish came South and married african slaves????

Too much PC history for you. Not only was that illegal until the mid 20th century, but it was simply not done. Some interbreeding did occur, but there was almost no recorded cases of marriage.

Maybe a "higher history" for you is in order too?


7 posted on 07/20/2005 4:41:42 AM PDT by armydawg1
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To: Candor7

Scots and Irish came South and married african slaves????

Too much PC history for you. Not only was that illegal until the mid 20th century, but it was simply not done. Some interbreeding did occur, but there was almost no recorded cases of marriage.

Maybe a "higher history" for you is in order too?


8 posted on 07/20/2005 4:41:54 AM PDT by armydawg1
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To: BIRDS

Ahhhh, you are Phonetician.

Me too.

It is interesting that politics, historical justice,
and political correctness have little to do with the way languages evolve. They seem to have a mind of their own!


9 posted on 07/20/2005 4:42:55 AM PDT by Candor7 (Into Liberal Flatulence Goes the Hope of the West)
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To: Candor7
I read that French as spoken in Canada is more like the French of the time of the settling of Canada than European French is.
A Greek-American friend grew up being told,
"Marry a Greek girl."

He graduated college and saved a bit of money and gave his mother a trip back to Greece. But time (and WWII) had not passed Greece by, and Greeks were different than she remembered from her childhood.

She returned to America and told her son,

"Marry a Greek-American girl."
Which illustrates the natural conservatism of the emigre.

10 posted on 07/20/2005 4:44:19 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion (The idea around which liberalism coheres is that NOTHING actually matters but PR.)
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To: Smile-n-Win

IMO, "black English" is "lazy English". It is not cool to sound like a white person. It's the whole back separatist thing; black history, black miss America, well, you get the picture. The liberal democrat controlled school system is afraid to hold blacks accountable for speaking proper English for fear of being called racist.


11 posted on 07/20/2005 4:44:35 AM PDT by JarheadFromFlorida
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To: sgtbono2002
I am still trying to explain to farmer Brown that a hoe to blacks isnt an instrument to work the garden with.

LOL!

12 posted on 07/20/2005 4:57:04 AM PDT by Smile-n-Win (Don't let them take things away from you on behalf of the public good!)
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To: Smile-n-Win

When I was a grad student I was a TA for an intro course. Students had to produce an essay on the week's reading and turn it in on Fridays.

As usual, some students did better than others right out of the box. One in particular though, a black student, had atrocious writing. It was barely even coherent. I had him pegged for an ESL kid. He never spoke in class, so never heard an accent.

Anyway, every week I'd write on his essay to come and see me during office hours. After weeks of asking, he finally did. And guess what? He wasn't ESL at all. He was from Queens. And he was entirely unprepared for university study.

I don't know how this younng man got through school. He could hardly even spell. His teachers utterly failed him at some point, but then he was admitted to a respectable state university.


13 posted on 07/20/2005 4:57:08 AM PDT by Gefreiter ("Are you drinking 1% because you think you're fat?")
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To: JarheadFromFlorida

Sound like a white person? LOL!!!!!!! Jarhead is there anything about black people you like? Please. You've never been to New York have you? Get over yourself.


14 posted on 07/20/2005 5:01:17 AM PDT by cyborg (http://mentalmumblings.blogspot.com/)
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To: conservatism_IS_compassion
I read that French as spoken in Canada is more like the French of the time of the settling of Canada than European French is.

AFAIK, the same is true of English as well.

15 posted on 07/20/2005 5:01:25 AM PDT by Smile-n-Win (Don't let them take things away from you on behalf of the public good!)
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To: armydawg1

Well I shouldn't have used the word,"married."

Many slave owners, slave drivers and Scots/Irish slaves and indentured servants F___ked black slaves and had children who then took their father's Scottish and Irish names.

These folks still formed family groups even if they were not married, centered on the mother. Dad only visited occasionaly for the most part, especially when he wanted a little somethin.

How else would you explain all the black people who have names like " Baily" , " MacGregor" and " MacIntosh" etc.
They did not simply take the names of their slave owners without interbreeding either, because these folks of color with Scots and Irish surnames today generally do not appear to be " pure black" folks. The men are handsome and the women are beautiful, and most of them wrongly deny their Celtic heritage. I do not.

" Black English" is a result of this social/sexual
interchange. This social, sexual, and linguistic mix
happened as a matter of fact, not as a result of political correctness.

I do not observe any form of
political correctness if I can help it.

You are correct. I used the term "married" rather loosely.


16 posted on 07/20/2005 5:01:28 AM PDT by Candor7 (Into Liberal Flatulence Goes the Hope of the West)
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To: armydawg1; Candor7

It wasn't illegal up North.


17 posted on 07/20/2005 5:02:59 AM PDT by cyborg (http://mentalmumblings.blogspot.com/)
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To: mhking; rdb3

Do you sound like a white person ping!


18 posted on 07/20/2005 5:04:34 AM PDT by cyborg (http://mentalmumblings.blogspot.com/)
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To: Gefreiter
In the early/mid 70's and was an undergrad TA and a graduate assistant. As an undergrad TA, I was supporting an intro Sociology course. Had one student who could barely read. He had been enrolled via a 'special program'. That's when I figured out that these 'special programs' helped the university's enrollment stats look better.

As a graduate assistant, I ran into a similar thing with the football team. The "gentleman's agreement" was that the team would enroll in the class to pump up the numbers for the department, and we were to make sure that they 'passed'.

Anyway, a college enrollment official I know (black female, Ph.D.), says that a HS diploma awarded before 1975 is the equivalent to a Bachelor's degree now. Public Schools have been dumbed down to 'get the numbers to look right", is the way she puts it. College degree programs have had to adjust. Once again, they need enrollments to get the money.
19 posted on 07/20/2005 5:40:17 AM PDT by Stashiu (RVN, 1969-70)
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To: Smile-n-Win
AFAIK, the same is true of English as well.
I'd never heard that, but certainly my own logic predicts it.

Just as the Greek-American thought of everything new as foreign and held it at arm's length, the Canadian has defined himself as not being American. Meanwhile the Americans were defining themselves as not being British and, just to be different, doing such things as writing dictionaries in which "harbour" is not only pronounced but actually spelled "harbor."


20 posted on 07/20/2005 5:42:15 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion (The idea around which liberalism coheres is that NOTHING actually matters but PR.)
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To: Stashiu

Well, higher ed is a business, like any other business in many ways.

And I would agree with your friend's observation about high school diplomas and BAs. Faculty who were overseeing my MA explained how different things were when they were grad students, when there was much less emphasis on ticket-punching than on truly preparing someone to bring new knowledge to the field.

As for jocks, I didn't get many. Some of my classmates had run-ins with the coaching staff over dopey students, but I guess I was lucky. The few had did OK. Matter of fact, one guy even asked me once, "Look, I'm taking this because coach said to. What do I have to do to get a C and stay on the team?" I answered him, respected his forthright attitude, and we got along well. And he did fine.


21 posted on 07/20/2005 6:23:51 AM PDT by Gefreiter ("Are you drinking 1% because you think you're fat?")
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To: Smile-n-Win
I don't care if it sounds racist or not but everybody I see somebody that speaks the "ghetto" or "ebonics" language, they are either washing my car, pumping my gas or otherwise working some low-skill job. Or they are hanging on the street corner drinking out of paper bags. OK, you have the occasional basketball star or rap artist too.

Fact it you need to speak clear English to succeed in life. This goes for our Spanish-speaking Americans too. Hell, even in Europe, pretty much everybody speaks English. In fact in places like Denmark and Germany, they speak English better than we do. That's probably because they teach it in all their schools.

In fact, I consider it a racist statement to even say that "Ebonics" is the language of black people. It clearly is not. There are many black people who speak excellent and flawless English. So it is not a function of their inability to speak proper but merely a false cultural ideal forced on them. Kind of like Kwaanza.

Anybody who supports the use of Ebonics or "ghetto-speak" are racists trying to keep the black man down in my opinion.

22 posted on 07/20/2005 6:47:09 AM PDT by SamAdams76 (Need a Waffle House in Massachusetts)
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