Language In The Classroom

When it comes to language in the classroom many African American students are oppressed because of the way they speak. Teachers especially try to correct these “errors” linked to African American Language, which is why professionals, and society need to understand that African American Language is different form of language and not a flawed form of Standard American English. Welcoming their home languages, cultures and identities into the classroom so they feel included and apart of the class. Doing so might make the minority students more willing to add Standard American English to their life. African American Language and Standard American English are different, but if people are able to understand, acquire, and switch between both then society will be more capable of recognizing the authenticity of the language and its people.


Language is defined to its grammatical origins, not the vocabulary. The use of “standard” is problematic, suggesting that the United States does have an accepted standard language. English is considered a Germanic language because the grammar follows Germanic rules, even though the vocabulary is mostly French and Latin. African American Language is more grammatically African than English, even though the vocabulary is English. Since, it follows logically that African American Language it should be considered linguistically. The African language is separate from English, because of its grammatical origins in the Niger-Congo or western and southern parts of Africa. Determining African American Language as its own language from Standard American English and establishing African American Language as a legitimate form of spoken and written communication. The term “standard” is used to differentiate the type of English preferred in academic and professional settings from other varieties of spoken and written American English.


In the article “Bad Ideas About Writing: African American Is Not Good English” Jennifer Cunningham explained the grammatical and phonological rules that Linguist Lisa Green discusses in African American Language. Between African American Language and Niger-Congo languages, there is a grammatical structure called zero copula. Zero copula allows the sentences to be grammatically correct without a verb(Ex: be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being). Some African American Language speakers will say “She reading”, when Standard American English speakers will say “She is reading”. Both of those phrases would be considered correct. The author also states that “Construction that includes the word “be” known as habitual be, meaning that if the word “be” is used in a sentence, an action is consistent or regular”(Cunningham p.90). As a result, “She be reading” in African American Language is equivalent to “She reads all the time”, in Standard American English.


Additional grammatical trait used in African American Language is the negative concord; a phenomenon in which more than once negative element occurs in a sentence, but the sentence is interpreted as only being negated once. The use of the negative concord is to emphasis the sentence. Meaning t

he African American Language sentence “I ain’t got no time” is correct and more empathic than the Standard American English sentence “I don’t have any time.” The word of “ain’t” is also used in African American Language and can be translated to the Standard American English word “didn’t”. Those examples should support the point that African American Language is not bad English but follows a pattern that doesn’t exist in Standard American English.


Not only do African American students feel oppressed from the lack of validation but upcoming teachers also struggle with their identity as a teacher or even a person. Shuaib Meacham’s article titled “The Clash of “Common Senses”: Two African American Women Become Teachers.” Meacham follows two African American women where in the process of becoming teachers. They became frustrated in the reality because they wanted their language to have a more significant role in the education world. Linda grew up speaking Black, or African American Language, which is frowned upon in the education world. As a result, Linda began to negatively devalue not only herself but her family and the people in her community. Tanya grew up speaking Standard American English, but she experience a situation were one of here white counterparts defined the way she talked as “talking white.” In the education world she found herself losing her cultural identity as a Black Woman. Both Linda and Tanya were challenged to maintain their self-esteem and cultural integrity when it came to the task of teaching. Together both women help each other maintain their confidence to create their own standard rooted in cultural appreciation and Black self-love that help get them to that point.


Accepting different languages in the classroom, means you welcome in that person’s culture and identity. Doing this will not only make African Americans feel respected but, all other minorities, as well as making people more willing to include Standard American English into their lives. “If students understand that different audiences and contexts expect different language choices and that African American Language is different from Standard American English but that neither is better or worse than the other, then they are better able to accept and use both proficiently.” (Cunningham p.91)


Works Cited


Ball, Cheryl E., and Loewe Drew M. “Bad Ideas About Writing.”Cunningham, Jennifer M. “African American Language Is Not Good English”, West Virginia University Libraries Digital Publishing Institute (2017).


Delpit, Lisa D., and Dowdy Kilgour Joanna. “The Skin That We Speak: Thoughts On Language and Culture in the Classroom.” New York Press, (2002).


Meacham, Shuaib J. “The Clash Of Common Senses: Two African American Women Become Teachers”, New York Press, (2008).


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