We’re Bilingual, Baby.


Black people are bilingual too.

“On fleek”

“Chile”

“Issa”

“Finna”

“Fit”

“What’s the tea?”

“Sis”

 These are all AAVE phrases.

African American Vernacular English(AAVE) has recently been recognized as an official language/dialect, as it should be. 

Often, people incorrectly label such phrases as “just slang,” but AAVE, like all languages, has rules, patterns and its own grammar. Which by the way, is why it’s so easy to know if a person that we can’t see, but are listening to or reading something from, is not Black; it’s just..off. Imagine a native Spanish(or any other language) speaker, listening to a non-native speaker, the difference is pretty apparent.

Or for my Teen Titans fans, has anyone seen the Starfire meme about this?

It goes something like:

No one:…

Still no one:..

Starfire: This fit is the tea, no cap, on god. I’m fleeky!

That’s high-key how some non-native AAVE speakers sound. *cringe*

Something that I’ve noticed over the years, is that people try to equate AAVE to low intelligence or “bad English.” And we’ve all seen comments, where someone tries to “correct” AAVE. I’m here to tell you now, that the roots of that are based in racism; sometimes conscious, sometimes unconscious – but it’s there nevertheless. AAVE is not standard English and should not be held to the rules of such. No one looks at British English speakers (which is also a dialect of Standard English) and wonders out loud or in their head about their intelligence.

Speaking of rules/grammar, these are some AAVE examples that are not “bad English,” but are perfect AAVE:

“She be dancing all the time.”

AAVE grammar rule: Occurrences that happen often are indicated by BE.

The standard English(SE) translation: She dances all the time.

“She gon go to the store.”

AAVE grammar rule: Events that are going to happen are often preceded by gon or gonna.

SE translation: She is going to go to the store.

“He been married.”

AAVE grammar rule: Some past events are conveyed by placing been before the verb. This is very different than standard English, where the AAVE phrase is mistaken for the “present perfect,” with “have” or has” deleted.

Standard English present perfect: He has been married. Which indicates that he no longer is. In AAVE this indicates the opposite, that he still is married.

“She stay going over Dee’s house.”

                or 

“She steady going over Dee’s house.”

AAVE grammar rule: Events that happen often are preceded with steady or stay.

SE translation: She is always going over Dee’s house.

“I ain’t seen him.”

“I ain’t hit your car.”

AAVE grammar rule: Ain’t is used in place of haven’t and didn’t. Ain’t is used to negate the verb.

SE Translation: I haven’t seen him. I didn’t hit your car.

“I ain’t see nothing.”

“I ain’t break no window.”

AAVE grammar rule: Double negatives are allowed. And contrary to the current narrative, this is not uncommon in language. Romance languages and creoles often do this.

SE translation: I didn’t see anything. I didn’t break the window.

“Oh, Lord Jesus, It’s a fire.”

AAVE grammar rule: Using IT for the dummy expletive THERE.

SE translation: Oh, Lord Jesus, there’s a fire.

In addition to our own grammar rules, we also (just like other dialects) incorporate different sounds.

Ask can be pronounced as “axe.”

Door as “doe.”

South as “souf.”

West side as “wes side.”

AAVE sound: When two consonants appear at the end of a word (for instance the st in test), they are often reduced: the final t is deleted. At the end of a word, th is often pronounced f. R is not pronounced after the vowels o and u.

po-lice” 

AAVE sound: Stress is sometimes placed on the first syllable.

SE sound: Stress is on the last syllable.

This is just a snapshot of some of the grammar rules in AAVE. I didn’t include them to “teach” anyone(please don’t) how to speak it, but to show it’s validity as a dialect. Not that I think it needs to be proven to anyone, but because “yall gon’ put some respeck on it.”

And educators, I need y’all to stop belittling Black kids when you hear them speak AAVE. What you have to realize is that AAVE is their FIRST language and SE is their second. If you aren’t taking into account cultural differences, to include language, then you’re doing them a disservice. That doesn’t mean that you can’t teach SE, we know that you have to. But it does mean that you should keep your shit-talking to yourself, mkay?

We are the masters of code-switching (changing up how you talk depending on the environment. I.E un-Blackifying it.🙄) and we absolutely CAN talk in SE. I mean we(unfortunately) have to, to succeed in mainstream society, but that doesn’t make our language invalid. 

Hell, I codeswitch when interacting with y’all. The way that I write IWWs(granted I throw in AAVE here and there) or talk at work, is VERY different than how I communicate with friends and family or how I speak in my home. 

You wouldn’t talk down to the French-American when you hear them speaking French, would you? A lot of people absolutely do speak down on those (brown Spanish speakers)who speak Spanish, which is ridiculous. It isn’t often that anyone bad-mouths Gaelic speaking Irish folks. I have, however, heard people make fun of Indigenous people’s native languages.

There is always a stigma when it comes to the languages that POC speak. In the case of AAVE and Black people, it’s the same situation. We have a very long, sordid history of this, that is full of racist epitaphs, nods to our supposed low IQ and inability to conform. But have you considered that we don’t want to conform? That SE maybe isn’t a God-tier language to us, like some others make it out to be. 

I’m just saying tho, if people are upset about their inability to speak more than one language, then say that. Because you being big mad, isn’t gonna stop us from speaking AAVE.

Taylor Jones, who blogs about sociolinguistics, said:

“AAVE is a dialect of English like any other, but suffers extreme stigma due to the history of race in America. It has a systematic, coherent, rule-bound grammar. It has some super cool grammatical features that allow it to communicate complex ideas in fewer words than other dialects of English. While the rise of hip-hop and some reintegration of our cities has exposed more of the mainstream to some varieties of AAVE, it is still, unfortunately, highly stigmatized. Regarding those who still think it is somehow not valid, Oscar Gamble said it best: They don’t think it be like it is, but it do.”

And that’s that, on that.

Sources used :https://www.hawaii.edu/satocenter/langnet/definitions/aave.html

https://www.languagejones.com/blog-1/2014/6/8/what-is-aave

janay

When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com.

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