When I was teaching high school English, one of the mottos of my classroom was “The best language is the language that gets the job done.” What I wanted my students to understand was that, while one of the goals of the class was to teach students formal English, informal English was also an important element of one’s everyday experience. Although formal English would be necessary when interviewing for a job or making a presentation, formal English spoken outside on the campus or at a social with one’s peers could be awkward and stilted. Therefore, rather than learning just formal English, it was necessary to learn when to apply the appropriate language to different experiences and situations. While I didn’t require that my students learn black English, I taught them that there was such a thing and let some of the black kids talk black English to each other, using terms that the white kids did not understand but which were understood readily by other black students. I also taught my students that our language originated from the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. It was the Angles who dominated those three tribes, and it was their language that became ours. Only country folks would call our language “Anglish,” but that’s where the name English originated, sho’ nuff.
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