Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Published 9:30 AM by with 0 comment

Talking White or Code Switching: African-American’s Struggle with Speaking Correct English

Talking white or code switching | Yes, We Rise

Do you "talk white" or code switch? 

For decades many African-Americans have heard the comment from peers as well as family that often says "Why are you talking white?" It amazes me that this is such a stigma within the community. It is very sad that when I speak correct English and in a proper way that I am accused of talking white. The idea of code switching has been a topic in the African-American community for years and has been taught to students in order to make sure they know how to speak proper English in appropriate situations.

The definition of code switching is changing ones speech or dialect for the situation presented. Usually a professional or school setting is where code switching occurs.

As an English teacher, I have been told that I talk white by many students and it often sparks the conversation about code switching. I teach code switching to all of my students because slang is not only used in the African American community; it is across race and culture.

This has been an ongoing discussion for me and the way I explain it is that you have to be able to speak proper English in school and in professional settings. It does not mean you are changing the way you have been raised or turning your back on your race. It is amazing to me how often my African-American students criticize each other when they see another African-American speaking correct English.

A study conducted by Rebecca Wheeler for ASCD for Educational Leadership (2008) showed that many African-American children often speak broken English, stemming from their upbringing and the education levels of their parents. They were often taught that the English they speak is perfectly fine. When corrected by peers or teachers they often reacted with “I don’t wanna talk white.” In actuality it was speaking proper English.

In order to get our students to know that it is okay, as family, professionals and examples, we have to teach them that it is acceptable to speak proper English and that it will not change your culture, but it can change your status.

Proper speaking can change your status

The way it could change your status it can help you to interview well for a possible position. It can also help with interviews for college and for proper writing. It is beneficial for social settings and can help open new doors to other opportunities.

Will you lose your culture by speaking proper English? Will you be deemed as a white person for transforming your mind? Not possible. It is okay to speak proper English and still hold on to and be who you are around your friends. Just know that code switching can help, not hinder your success.

Please watch the video below on how students view code switching. Talking White" The Code Switching Blues by Andre Robert Lee on Vimeo.

Until The Next


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