Swiss Saturday: Ebonics and Swiss German


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Amy Alkon’s commentary on Ebonics caught my eye. She responded to an article by Michael Hobbs called “Why America Needs Ebonics Now.” I find discussion on language fascinating–especially since moving to a new country and learning a new language.

Alkon says that teaching Ebonics in schools is “dooming Black children and pretending it’s progress.” Hobbs argues for more teaching in Ebonics. He worries about “the idea that Standard English must be constantly defended against marauders is an example of what linguists call ‘dominant language ideology,’ and even well-intentioned, otherwise open-minded people display it without noticing.” This, is a bad thing, as it makes teachers think children who speak  African-American Vernacular English (AAVE or Ebonics) are unintelligent.

I come to this with a different viewpoint, after having lived for many years in a country where the native language and the official language are two different languages. Here are my two points. 1. Standard English must be taught and defended against marauders in the classroom. 2. Speaking AAVE has nothing to do with intelligence or potential. Here’s why.

The native language in the German-speaking part of Switzerland is Swiss German. Except saying that makes it sound like there is one Swiss German language. There is not. Each

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