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Ponderings Rant

ebonics

I had a lot of fun with this conversation, so I thought I’d share…

[21:05:00] <DarthWakka> How can california proclaim a dialect to be a language?
[21:05:07] <COSLeia> Kevin- did they?
[21:05:12] <DarthWakka> Oh yes
[21:05:19] <DarthWakka> Ebonics is a language in california
[21:05:27] <DarthWakka> Or was
[21:05:30] <COSLeia> can you show me an article?
[21:05:31] <DarthWakka> It could have been repealed
[21:06:15] <COSLeia> all I know is that teachers were lobbying to have instruction for teachers in what they called ‘ebonics’, or the dialect of local african-americans…and then the press caught wind of it and hyped it as they were trying to teach STUDENTS to speak it
[21:06:32] <COSLeia> when really it was just about getting the teachers to understand what the students were saying
[21:06:48] <COSLeia> Rush Limbaugh is especially good at twisting things his own way
[21:07:07] <DarthWakka> Errr so far I’m only seeing it as a bill
[21:07:14] <DarthWakka> Maybe it never made it to law in schools
[21:08:19] * COSLeia is listening to [hoobastank – crawling in the dark.mp3] [6.82 MB]
[21:08:35] <DarthWakka> http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/congress/january97/ebonics_1-23.html
[21:08:37] * DarthWakka is listening to [Blink-182 – New Hope.mp3] [3.44 MB]
[21:08:49] <DarthWakka> Okay so there was a referendum to teachers in oakland to recognize it
[21:08:55] <DarthWakka> And it made to senate
[21:09:05] <DarthWakka> But I guess it never went farther
[21:09:10] <COSLeia> to recognize it as a language?
[21:09:11] * COSLeia goes to read
[21:09:24] <DarthWakka> Recognize it as a lexicon and to understand it
[21:09:37] <COSLeia> “The controversy arose last month after schools in Oakland, California, began instructing teachers to recognize black language patterns, called Ebonics by some, as a way of teaching standard English more effectively.”
[21:09:40] <COSLeia> I see no problem with that
[21:09:44] <COSLeia> the dialect does exist
[21:10:26] <COSLeia> the only argument you could have against it is “well I don’t want to give them any help in learning ‘standard’ English…they should just pick it up naturally, or work on it themselves”
[21:10:44] <COSLeia> which is ridiculous, because ‘standard’ obviously isn’t being spoken at home or in their groups of friends
[21:10:45] <DarthWakka> ROBERT WILLIAMS: The results were striking. The children scored significantly higher on the Ebonics version than on the standard English versions. The following two examples are given here to show the method of code switching or translations. Standard English: Mark the toy that is behind the sofa. Ebonics version: Mark the toy that is in back of the couch. Two: Standard English version: Point to the squirrel that is beginning to climb the tree.
[21:10:47] <COSLeia> so where are they going to learn it?
[21:11:00] <COSLeia> code switching :D
[21:11:37] <Maniac1> interesting concept
[21:11:40] * COSLeia thinks that non-linguists should be careful before passing judgment on things like this
[21:11:43] <DarthWakka> Well I know most schools don’t use spanish teachers to teach spanish speaking students english
[21:12:21] <COSLeia> which is bad
[21:12:22] * DarthWakka is listening to [DJ Tiesto – 12 – Major League-Wonder-.mp3] [10.76 MB]
[21:12:25] <COSLeia> they should do that
[21:12:30] <COSLeia> or at least, have a Spanish speaker available
[21:12:34] <COSLeia> but that’s where budget comes in
[21:12:49] <COSLeia> there is a learning curve against people who don’t speak ‘standard’ (whatever that is)
[21:13:01] <DarthWakka> And I can base that claim by living in 2 and knowing first hand a third school system all heavily populated by spanish speaking individuals
[21:13:14] <COSLeia> I know they don’t.
[21:13:22] <COSLeia> I’m in a Teaching English as a Second Language class, for heaven’s sake ;)
[21:13:39] <COSLeia> there is actually a big debate about whether or not you should use someone’s original language to teach a new one
[21:14:13] <COSLeia> but regardless, the money for such an operation really isn’t there.
[21:14:32] <COSLeia> that’s why they like teachers who can speak Spanish
[21:14:46] <DarthWakka> Hmm… well as I see it, speaking and understanding are 2 different things
[21:14:46] <COSLeia> other than Arabic, Spanish is probably the biggest language being pimped to students these days
[21:15:07] <COSLeia> what do you mean?
[21:17:14] <COSLeia> …
[21:17:40] <COSLeia> am I still here?
[21:19:04] <Maniac1> i’m floating around
[21:19:06] * DarthWakka is listening to [Bangers and Mashed.mp3] [6.64 MB]
[21:19:21] <Maniac1> sorry wrong message
[21:19:31] <COSLeia> L1 can either interfere or bolster L2 acquisition!
[21:19:36] <DarthWakka> Yes’m
[21:19:38] <COSLeia> and that’s about all I have to say about that ;>
[21:19:44] <DarthWakka> I had a phone call
[21:19:49] <COSLeia> ahh
[21:20:19] <COSLeia> this chicken is awesome
[21:20:22] <DarthWakka> speaking and understanding
[21:20:41] <DarthWakka> Okay that interview cites a man who speaks perfect “standard english” in this interview
[21:20:49] <DarthWakka> ROBERT WILLIAMS: Yes. They know that there’s home talk and there’s school talk. And they learn standard English. I still speak Ebonics. Every day I play golf. We get down.
[21:21:48] <COSLeia> Kevin, do you feel that you learn anything at school?
[21:22:03] <DarthWakka> lol not really unless it’s science related
[21:22:11] <COSLeia> So there are different learning styles, yes?
[21:22:13] <DarthWakka> I learn all kinds of stuff in chemistry
[21:22:26] <COSLeia> Current methods don’t work for everyone.
[21:22:44] <DarthWakka> okay I want someone to teach me in l337
[21:22:46] <COSLeia> So yes, there are some people who do well in the system.
[21:22:54] <COSLeia> But there are some who do not.
[21:22:56] <DarthWakka> I speak l337 at home on the computer
[21:22:59] <COSLeia> That’s just a fact of education.
[21:23:11] <COSLeia> The point is not to teach in ebonics.
[21:23:19] <COSLeia> The point is giving the teachers the tools they need in case they need them.
[21:23:32] <COSLeia> If a student just isn’t getting it, wouldn’t it be good if the teacher could rephrase it?
[21:23:51] <COSLeia> Just like in SLA, you wouldn’t teach a Spanish student English while speaking all Spanish
[21:23:59] <COSLeia> but wouldn’t it be good to explain certain things in Spanish?
[21:24:07] <COSLeia> ESPECIALLY at the early levels.
[21:24:12] <COSLeia> Tapering off as students get more advanced.
[21:24:46] <DarthWakka> Alright, that involves a foreign language though. Are you saying a dialect is the same?|
[21:24:53] * DarthWakka is listening to [ATB – My Dream.mp3] [8.11 MB]
[21:24:56] <COSLeia> It is if it is getting in the way of comprehension.
[21:25:01] <COSLeia> And you cited an example to me that proves that it is.
[21:25:11] <COSLeia> the students scored higher on tests that were in ebonics.
[21:25:27] <COSLeia> so apparently they didn’t understand the other test as well.
[21:25:46] <COSLeia> Just like teachers in Appalachia…they learn the local dialect there, and it isn’t such a big deal.
[21:25:47] <DarthWakka> That sounds like teaching down to me
[21:26:02] <COSLeia> The difference here is that it’s harder for white people to learn ebonics.
[21:26:13] <COSLeia> because for one thing not a whole lot of them have access to the community.
[21:26:25] <COSLeia> it becomes a sociopolitical thing instead of people communicating.
[21:26:35] <COSLeia> ebonics isn’t talking down, because ebonics isn’t bad.
[21:26:39] <COSLeia> ebonics is simply different.
[21:26:57] <COSLeia> a teacher using ebonics is not ‘simplifying’ the language, just using a different style of language.
[21:27:14] <DarthWakka> Well that’s idealism
[21:27:17] <COSLeia> not really.
[21:27:21] <DarthWakka> Cockney is looked down upon
[21:27:34] <COSLeia> yes, but it’s still a real, meaningful form of language.
[21:27:37] <COSLeia> and so is ebonics.
[21:27:43] <COSLeia> ANYTHING people use to communicate is language.
[21:27:52] <COSLeia> and it is capable of having all sorts of depth.
[21:28:19] <COSLeia> all language is is the expression of meaning and the facilitation of conversation.
[21:28:26] <COSLeia> you can do it in any number of ways.
[21:28:34] <COSLeia> why is one way considered ‘more intelligent’ than another?
[21:28:42] <COSLeia> mostly because that’s the form spoken by people in power.
[21:28:50] <COSLeia> people in power typically don’t have to adapt their lifestyles to anything.
[21:28:57] <COSLeia> instead, everyone else has to adapt their lifestyle to those people.
[21:29:01] <COSLeia> it isn’t fair, but it’s a fact of life.
[21:29:10] <COSLeia> so the least we can do is help them to adjust more easily.
[21:29:10] <DarthWakka> Well it’s also the form taught in other countried
[21:29:12] <DarthWakka> Well it’s also the form taught in other countries
[21:29:23] <COSLeia> hmm?
[21:29:44] <DarthWakka> I’d be curious to see a person who speaks fluent ebonics go to one of your language discussion groups and see how well they fare
[21:30:02] <COSLeia> are you missing the point?
[21:30:09] <COSLeia> the point is to teach them ‘standard’, academic English
[21:30:14] <COSLeia> by using ebonics
[21:30:29] <COSLeia> the point is not to encourage the use of ebonics and ignore teaching standard
[21:31:13] <Foreman> do you perhaps run the risk of doing more damage than good trying to teach academic english with ebonics? won’t you just wind up with ebonics taking over/
[21:31:14] <Foreman> ?
[21:31:25] <DarthWakka> That was my theory foreman
[21:31:42] * Foreman has no linguistics experience whatsoever
[21:32:00] * DarthWakka is listening to [Paul Oakenfold – 01 – Brancaccio & Aisher – Darker (Reset the Breaks Mix).mp3] [10.89 MB]
[21:32:11] <COSLeia> when you learn a foreign language in school, does your teacher teach it completely in that language from day one?
[21:32:13] <DarthWakka> This isn’t a foreign language you’re trying to teach, correct? Ebonics and english have the same basis
[21:32:17] <COSLeia> or does she explain things in English first?
[21:32:20] <COSLeia> not really
[21:32:31] <COSLeia> ebonics has been shown to be a pidgnization of English and several African languages
[21:32:35] <COSLeia> although that is still being researched
[21:32:51] <COSLeia> and actually, there are more than one ‘ebonic’ dialect
[21:32:58] <COSLeia> though there is one ‘standard’ that you see in entertainment
[21:33:06] <COSLeia> and the others tend to follow it via TV and such
[21:33:19] <COSLeia> so while many of the lexical items are the same
[21:33:23] <COSLeia> the GRAMMAR is significantly different
[21:33:27] <DarthWakka> there are dialects of a dialect? I find that interesting
[21:33:31] <COSLeia> double negatives being just one prominent example
[21:33:39] <COSLeia> every person speaks a dialect
[21:33:42] <COSLeia> there is no pure language
[21:33:52] <COSLeia> we just refer to pure language to make things simpler on our poor brains
[21:34:06] <Foreman> yes its explained in english first, though that is when they are very dissimilar… I have always found that language is really picked up when you have no other means to communicate… *total immersion*
[21:34:07] <DarthWakka> okay then a dialect of a dialect of a dialect
[21:34:08] <COSLeia> in fact, every person’s speech is different from the speech of others…we call that an ‘idiolect’
[21:34:16] * Foreman is a slow typist
[21:34:35] <COSLeia> but certain groups have similar enough idiolects to be considered a dialect.
[21:34:56] <COSLeia> ‘ebonics’ or Black American English or whatever you want to call it developed back in the 1700-1800s
[21:35:09] <COSLeia> you can see historical documents with that kind of language being used
[21:35:23] <COSLeia> in some ways it has developed on its own, and in other ways it has followed Standard American English
[21:35:32] <COSLeia> it is just close enough for comprehensibility for certain people
[21:35:45] <COSLeia> but not everyone has the language skills to completely understand it on both sides
[21:36:05] <COSLeia> for me, it’s just figuring out a new lexical item (word); I can typically understand ebonics otherwise
[21:36:10] <COSLeia> but it’s not that easy for other people
[21:37:18] <COSLeia> most linguists believe that BE developed because of the slave traders’ putting people who spoke different languages together on the same boat, so they couldn’t discuss mutiny
[21:37:33] <COSLeia> as they stayed together, they developed a pidgin of their African languages, for communication
[21:37:44] <COSLeia> when they got to America, they had to learn English as well, to understand their owners
[21:37:48] <COSLeia> so that got put into the mix too
[21:38:10] <COSLeia> some researchers say that BE more closely resembles British English than American English, but I’m not sure if that’s documented
[21:38:26] <DarthWakka> so the theory is they created an entire language out of nearly nothing in the months it took to travel in the holds?
[21:38:31] <COSLeia> no
[21:38:35] <COSLeia> a pidgin is not a language
[21:38:48] * DarthWakka is listening to [Ayumix – From Your Letter (DJ Hasebe remix).mp3] [4.27 MB]
[21:38:49] <COSLeia> a pidgin is a collection of things, usually words
[21:38:56] <COSLeia> that people all learn and use with each other
[21:39:05] <COSLeia> there tends to be little grammatical information
[21:39:06] <DarthWakka> err?
[21:39:10] <COSLeia> such as
[21:39:14] <COSLeia> you don’t inflect verbs in a pidgin
[21:39:19] <COSLeia> you would say stuff like ‘he go’
[21:39:28] <COSLeia> or whatever the plain forms are in the language you took the words from
[21:39:39] <COSLeia> a pidgin does eventually develop into a creole
[21:39:45] <COSLeia> and from there it is usually considered a language
[21:39:47] <COSLeia> but THAT takes a long time
[21:39:55] <COSLeia> it wasn’t done on those weeks in the boats
[21:40:01] <COSLeia> it was done in those years on the plantations
[21:40:05] <COSLeia> and consider this
[21:40:09] <COSLeia> slave children grew up learning the pidgin
[21:40:13] <COSLeia> it was their first language
[21:40:16] <COSLeia> so they added nuance to it
[21:41:31] <COSLeia> there are studies that show that the grammatical forms in ebonics more closely resemble the grammar of African languages than they do English.
[21:41:37] <COSLeia> that is why it’s hard for some people to understand.
[21:41:40] <COSLeia> the words are mostly English
[21:41:46] <COSLeia> but the way they’re used is different.
[21:42:43] <COSLeia> if you can’t tell, I’ve done a lot of research…
[21:43:21] <DarthWakka> perhaps i don’t know liguistics well enough, but the way I learned what little spanish I know was total immersion in the language at my job in san antonio. I’d think it much easier to go from ebonics to standard in total immersion
[21:43:26] * DarthWakka is listening to [Paul Oakenfold – Flood.mp3] [7.07 MB]
[21:43:33] <COSLeia> yes, it would
[21:43:38] <COSLeia> but the immersion isn’t total at all.
[21:43:45] <COSLeia> the ONLY place they get SAE is in school.
[21:43:58] <COSLeia> in their homes and communities they don’t usually need it.
[21:44:31] <COSLeia> so it’s kind of like how Japanese students take English for 6 years and still can’t speak it.
[21:44:45] <COSLeia> they can sit through the classes, pass, and not learn a damn thing.
[21:44:50] <COSLeia> because they don’t use it outside of class.

As you can see, I was really into this ;> I’m so glad I found linguistics.