Remember the Ebonics controversy?

Just over a couple of decades ago, the whole country was buzzing about something called Ebonics, now known as AAVE (African-American Vernacular English). You may or may not remember this, depending on your age and ethnicity.

Go watch this short video about it, just in case your memory needs refreshing! Remind yourself (or learn for the first time) where Ebonics came from, why linguists don’t worry about it, and why the general public—at least the general white public—got it all wrong.

Just as the topic itself is controversial, so should this video be. It makes good points, but…

“When white people want to do something experimental in education,” it says, “it’s called charter schools or experiential learning. When black people do it, it’s called identity politics or political correctness gone mad.” That’s a vast oversimplification: black people also start charter schools, and white people are also accused of political correctness gone mad. But it’s still true, as the closing words point out, that those of us who speak prestige dialects need to listen better, while those who speak “non-standard” dialects learn to code-switch, depending on context. I know that my own students do it well.

Categories: Linguistics, Teaching & Learning