Efforts to recognize the African-American dialect as a valid form of English are often opposed by African American conservatives. Bill Cosby for example, claims that African-Americans can’t speak coherent English and that is one of the reasons they are discriminated against in American society since ‘All cultures discriminate against people who have not mastered the standard language’ (Cosby and Poussaint 2007).
One of Mr. Cosby’s suggestions regarding the discrimination against African Americans is that African-American parents should start speaking to their children in ‘Standard English’ only (Cosby and Poussaint 2007). What Cosby suggests, amounts to language and cultural suicide. The African-American dialect is part of the identity of African American people. It has a long history comprising several centuries, suggesting that a people give up their language in order to overcome discrimination is outright language imperialism.
Researchers have determined that the ability to speak more than one language has beneficial effect on brain development in children and leads to them having better academic potential (Fernandez & Goldberg 2009). The modern world is a complex, interconnected place, knowing multiple languages confer an obvious advantage. Multilingual people are able to communicate with more people than those who can speak only one language, they are also able to better access foreign literature and gain insights into different cultures and different ideologies and patterns of thinking.
There are several approaches to overcoming the language barrier that forms a large part of the discrimination against members of minority communities. One approach toward this is the education of the larger society, with 12% of the population of the United States composed of Spanish speaking people, it is not unreasonable to demand that Spanish be taught alongside English the public schools of the country.
With the African American vernacular, the issue becomes more complex. African American vernacular, while being substantially different from ‘Standard English’, is not unintelligible to speakers of ‘Standard English’. One approach to ending language discrimination against African Americans is by recognizing their vernacular as a separate language and teaching ‘Standard English’ as a second language as was attempted by the Oklahoma school board, another approach is to teach people to recognize language variations as valid in their own right and to not denigrate variant forms of English as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ English.
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