Three Ways to Speak English

“They stay talkin’ ’bout my speech like it’s wrong,” IS grammatically correct . . . according to the rules of AAVE. What is AAVE, you ask? African American Vernacular English, or what most people know as Ebonics.

Ebonics is not slang, nor is it close to being “bad English.” It’s simply a dialect of English. Some linguistics would even go as far as to say that it’s a language all on its own like Gullah or Cajun French. We call these creole languages, languages that form when people of different native tongues are put together and use simple words and phrases to communicate with each other, and those simple words and phrases evolved into new languages that become native to the children of those people. Alright, that was a lengthy definition, but that is what happened to the African slaves. They were snatched from their home land, put onto foreign soil, grouped with other Africans who spoke different languages by the whites intentionally so that they couldn’t communicate with each other and rise up against their white captors, together. What happened? They evolved; they overcame. You can’t kill the human spirit, especially that of those who are oppressed.

What I want you to take from my words and this poem by Jamila Lyiscott is that the way we speak has nothing to do with our intelligence. Whether we speak Ebonics, “correct English,” (whatever that means), or a separate language all together like Russian, they each have a history, and that history in no way, shape, or form is bad.

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