'I want my scrilla, fo' rilla'

“Black English” is one of the sections in a required education class, “Teacher, School and Society,” at University of North Carolina at Wilmington, writes Mike Adams, a UNC professor of criminology.  Education Professor Maurice Martinez teaches future teachers to “understand the language spoken by African American children.”

For example, Maurice teaches his students that while whites use terms like “This, that, them, these, and those” blacks often say “Dis, dat, dem, dese, and dose.”

. . . Of course, if a white teacher is going to teach black kids, she needs to learn how to curse like they do. Here, Professor Martinez is brilliant. He informs us that while whites use the terms “mother” and “brother,” blacks often prefer to say “muvah” and “bruvah.” Maurice even gives a sample sentence: “My muvah cook grits.” But he cautions that when using profanity in conjunction with the “F-word” it is best to pronounce “mother” properly.

Black students may say “liberry” instead of “library,” Martinez advises would-be teachers. Asked if they’ve done their homework, they may respond, “Teacher, I been done did dat.”

After sending their kids to study education at UNC-Wilmington, many parents may decide they want their tuition money back. Thankfully, Maurice teaches 18 ways to say “money” in Black English: Book, bread, cake, cash, cheddar, cheese, chump change, coins, crumbs, dough, eagle, fitty, green, jingle, loot, moola, scrilla, and Benjamin.

I recommend that parents, black or white, call UNC-Wilmington and say “I want my chump back, ‘cause Professor Martinez is whack!” Or, to make it less personal, they could say “I want my scrilla, ‘fo rilla!”

If a new teacher doesn’t understand her students’ slang — which changes quickly and varies from place to place — she can ask her colleagues to explain. I can’t imagine it takes a whole semester to figure it out. Surely, she should speak standard English herself to give students a model of the language they’ll need to use if they hope to be educated and employed in the future.

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  1. As the kids might say–ROFLMAO.

    My kids tell me that I am multi-dialectal, falling into various casual idioms depending on who I am with. Professor Martinez is clueless.

  2. In an era when schools of education need drastic reform (as to K-12 schools), I don’t think this is helping their image a whole lot. Spending a semester on something that takes a first year teacher practically no time at all to pick up on seems like a waste. While well-intentioned, this class would only be necessary if a population of students in the U.S. spoke a dialect that was nearly incomprehensible. While the Bronx might be different from other urban centers, students with the most pronounced street slang are still comprehensible. What their speech does for their reading and writing skills is another story altogether.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Obligatory Movie Reference:

    “Help! I cannot understand the mean and vulgar dialect of my students, filled as it is with colloquial improvisation and vernacular form!”

    “You gotta learn to speak from the streets, man…. you can’ be jawin’ like dat. Try dis. Say ‘Yo…. cutty can’t hang wit’ dis lingo.'”

    “Yogurt he can’t hang with dyslingo. What an awful sentence… it’s not even a sentence. And what’s dyslingo?”

    “You jivin’ me? Chump don’ want no help, chump don’ get no help…”

    “No…. listen. What I said was…”

    “Sheeeeeeit. My momma din’ raise no dummies… I dug your rap!”

    “I’m so sorry. Look… I want to learn. It’s just that… well, this is all so confounding.”

    “Jus’ hang loose, blood. ‘Fesser Martinez gonna catch you up on da rebound a da ‘Bonicside.”

    “Well golly.”

  4. A wise man once said something about “the soft bigotry of low expectations”. This is an example of such.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Far be it from me to infer nefarious intent here.
    But the less standard English somebody speaks, the worse their employment prospects are and the more likely it is they’ll be fodder for the progressives’ buy-the-vote efforts with manufactured victims.

  6. Richard–I think the problem is that Professor Martinez is a charlatan and a faker. Study of a minority dialect might very well be a worthy endeavor–particularly if one aspires to teach the standard dialect to speakers of the minority dialect. The perspective is not that one needs the study to understand the minority speakers, so much as it is beneficial to understand the rules by which the dialect is constructed, in comparison to standard speech patterns, and to be attuned to the color and nuance of the speech, all of which can contribute to student writing, if properly understood.

    Teaching apsiring teachers that their students can be expected to say “muvah” instead of “mother,” displays no understanding of any roots of the dialect, rules of language construction, or anything beyond the most simplistic mimicry.

  7. I tend to agree with Margo/Mom’s post. Unfortunately, the linked article is so tendentious that it’s really difficult to tell whether Martinez is wasting his student’s time or not; IMO it’s certainly worth spending a week or two in a semester looking at black English from a linguistic point of view. It has rules like any other language, and it would be useful to know some of them for orientation purposes – but there’s of course no point in trying to teach teachers to actually speak it.

  8. They could always call on Barbara Billingsley.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    You’ll recall Calfornia’s run at teaching Ebonics.
    Martinez is a charlatan, but a charlatan with a PhD gets to take a very high salary for teaching charlatanry to your kids.
    Given the incestuous world of college, with unformed personalities, it’s easy to coerce a number of the kids by makinng the case that believing this or saying that will put you in the outgroup with all those rednecks. So you’d better be like us, the anointed. The profs were running that scam in the Sixties when I was in college.
    But this is not an isolated charlatan whose class offerings were approved in advance by the admin.
    This is a charlatan whose class offerings were approved by the admin in advance who is not alone in this nonsense.
    I had friends in college and the Army who referred to going to college in the South as “XXXX university; an island of light in a sea of darkness” or “ignorance”. Be a shame to be cast off the island, huh?
    Still, the obvious result need not be the intent. But, so?

  10. Margo that’s such complete and utter bullshit it’s barely tolerable to read. Your condescending racism is disgusting.

  11. Miller Smith says:

    This is racist as lleh!

    Can you see the likes of me-a hillbilly from Eeest 10-E-C showing up in this racist pig’s class with an interpreter and telling the pig prof that, “I don’t rightly unerstan ya or eenythang you’re a fixin ta say”?

    Then can you see my interpreter telling the pig prof that he needs to learn my dialect to convey understanding to me?

    Who comes up with this parc? Whomever it is, they reeeeeally hate black folks! The klan could show their hate more than this kind of sick stuff.

    Hey! Maybe the klan is the authors of this stuff!

  12. Do you really not know the difference between slang and dialect?

  13. Miller Smith says:

    It is racist as lleh, ceolaf! It is dirty, rotten, black hating, filthy racism.

  14. American dialects are pretty fascinating — but I don’t know what this person is teaching. Sometimes it is good to know something about the grammatical variations when trying to teach standard English — one can “translate” — but that kind of explicit instruction isn’t usually required. Mostly it’s verb forms, though, not vocabulary.

    I do a slang lesson every year (knowing slang vs. jargon vs. idiom is a state standard) — the kids all think it is a hoot, and I get to catch up on all the new words. I ask the KIDS to explain their own language, not the other middle aged white ladies on the floor. Sheesh. Primary sources!

  15. Cardinal Fang says:

    It sounds like this person is teaching neither slang nor dialect, but instead an African American accent. I don’t know why anyone would think that would be particularly useful. Most of us can readily recognize an African American accent, and even if we can’t, do we really need to learn that southerners say /pin/ for “pen” and Bostonians say /cah/ for “car”? I think not, and neither is it important for aspiring teachers to learn an African American accent.

    What’s interesting about the African American Vernacular English (AAVE, or Ebonics) dialect is the verb forms, not the prononciation. AAVE makes interesting distinctions that standard English doesn’t make. Wikipedia has a good article explaining some features of AAVE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American_Vernacular_English

  16. Kevin Smith says:

    I work at a high school 75 miles north of where this idiot is teaching this and 40% of my students are black. They don’t talk the way he is teaching (they do use slang but not what he is teaching). So is he just teaching slang local to Wilmington, NC?

  17. Kevin–I would suspect that he is teaching out of some “text” written in the 1960’s at a great distance from any actual speakers of whatever it is that he purports to be teaching.

  18. Prof. Martinez is at fault, but not totally…the issue here is that it turns his students way of thinking into a blanket expectation when they see a black child walk into their classroom. Not every black child will speak in the manner he teaches, and more importantly, there is a difference between the types of English dialect used by African-Americans throughout this country, as there is a difference in the white American dialects used throughout this country as well. You can’t teach one without teaching the other. What are his pupils to do if a poor white child from a trailer park in the Bible belt comes strolling into their class? How do they handle that? Or are they just supposed to be understanding because they’re white too? The thing about the English language, is that regardless of what dialect you speak–and the socioeconomic connection that it is derived from–you can still understand the person who is speaking to you, because it’s all ENGLISH. Period.

    They need to get it together down @ UNC ASAP!

  19. It’s perfectly fine for people in general and students in particular to use whatever language or dialect they prefer, when they are interacting with family and their personal community. However, they should be expected and explicitly taught to speak and write correct English at school and teachers should correct errors in usage. It is simply a matter of proper preparation for success in academics and employment; speaking and writng correctly is an advantage. Without those skills, opportunities are diminished.

  20. Mike Curtis says:

    I already done did dis. It’s like I be tellin’ my keeds all duh time, “Don’ mattuh what languidge u count in…dis is a maff class. Only numbahs mattuh heah”

    Racist? What race am I? In what region did I spend my formative years? Hint, I was born in 1951, in the USA.

    Hooked on phonics worked for me.

  21. Alex Bensky says:

    I do give Professor Martinez some credit–he’s making a living, and I’d guess a decent one, by purveying balderdash.

    In any event, by the time black kids get to school they have spent vast amounts of time watching tv and they are perfectly capable of understanding standard English.

    I guess teachers who have Jewish students should be trained in Hebonics–they would learn to indicate disdain by “x-shmx,” e.g. “accent-shmaccent, they should be learning standard English.” The teachers would be trained to reverse the usual word order in some situations: “A proper term paper you call that?” And of course, the teachers would be trained to answer questions with other questions: “Why do we have to do this assignment?” “Why do you think you have to?”

    Of course, any teacher who tried that with Jewish students would be met with a strong and vocal parental outcry. But I’d guess Professor Martinez thinks his black students aren’t capable of that.

    Miller Smith is, of course, absolutely correct–you would expect this sort of thing from the Kleagle of the Klan…or from a professor who figures that the last thing he wants to do is help black students assimilate to and deal with the society in which they live, and cultivate among those students not a sense that they can achieve, but a sense that they are nothing but helpless victims and it’s all someone else’s fault.

  22. Richard Aubrey says:

    Passive, helpless victims are useful, especially when produced in large numbers.
    They can be convinced to vote against their interests quite easily. See Detroit.