Social Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Is it ok to correct her grammar?

Asked by SuperMouse (30772points) December 19th, 2011

I know a young woman who is rather grammatically challenged. She often uses very poor grammar that just makes me cringe. She is in college and wants to be an early childhood educator and it seems the poor grammar could be a huge obstacle to achieving that career goal. Whenever I hear her say she didn’t go nowhere or that she seen someone at the mall, it takes all my self-control to keep from correcting her. Is it all right to gently correct her or should I just keep biting my lip.

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144 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

As a seasoned veteran of the Grammar Gestapo, I think it depends on how well you know her. If you think she’ll be offended at the slightest criticism (however friendly), then don’t bother.

Coloma's avatar

Eeee…that’s a tough call.
I’d say no, unless she is asking.
I had a friend once that had the same issues and was always asking me to write things for her, THAT got old, and she showed no interest in learning for herself.
I agree with @Blackberry depends on how well you know her and her sensitivities.

If she’s aware her grammar is poor but shows no interest in learning then you will come across as arrogant.
I can’t imagine her teachers/professors have not already corrected her words on more than one occasion.
If someone speaks poorly they will write poorly as well.

SuperMouse's avatar

FYI, she is my husband’s daughter.

gailcalled's avatar

My psychiatrist said, among other wise things, that you should never give advice unless it is asked for. It is considered hostile behavior in the shrink lingo.

And to simply correct random words is really like buckshot. If she wants to deal with the issue (a complicated one, as we have seen here over and over) she needs to address it systematically over a long period of time.

Erratum: Since she is your step-daughter, the issue is particularly dicey. No, NO, and NO.

I am tempted, for example, to mention that I dislike the use of “Grammar Gestapo” because (for me), should never trivialize Gestapo. But I won’t.

Cupcake's avatar

Ask her if she would like her grammar corrected by you. I’m sure you can find your sweet @SuperMouse way of asking that will be very kind and supportive.

SuperMouse's avatar

@gailcalled I agree 100% with your point about terms such as Grammar Gestapo, even to the point where I asked a question about it here once.

What I find interesting is that my husband has good grammar and so do his two sons. Curious indeed in my humble opinion. Also, DH told me to go ahead and correct it, I am just a bit nervous and timid about actually speaking up.

submariner's avatar

OP: Husband’s daughter? No, she doesn’t want to hear this from you. Let it slide.

Incidentally, most people are capable of using different registers of language. They may use a non-standard dialect around their friends and family (especially if those people talk that way) but use the standard dialect for a job interview or formal writing.

gailcalled's avatar

@SuperMouse: Instead of a point-and-shoot approach, might there be a more organized method. Do her teachers correct her writing?

For example, “She didn’t go nowhere.” You could write down several examples on a 3×5 card for her later reference.

“She went nowhere.”
“She didn’t go anywhere.”
“She did not go nowhere.” Double-negative is the explanation.


“I see him now.”
“I saw him at the mall.”
“I have seen him several times this week.”
“I had seen him twice before he ran off with his masseuse to Tahiti.”

On fluther, how often do we read:

“HIm and me have been dating for three weeks.”
“I am hoping to remember he and I”
“There have been some problems with he and I.”

Pick your battles wisely. (I know you will.)

AnonymousWoman's avatar

She is your husband’s daughter? It doesn’t sound like a good idea then…unless you’re looking for a fight. I’m not saying she will definitely fight with you, but it’s better not to play with fire. Maybe you could express your concerns to your husband and he could do that (if he is willing to). Perhaps you could also make sure to lead by example and use correct grammar around her. Who knows? Maybe she will even pick up on it because of you… without realizing what you’re doing.

I don’t agree with the person who said that a person who speaks poorly will write poorly as well. Not all the time, anyway. I don’t always speak perfectly and I think my writing is just fine. When I use words incorrectly out loud, my Dad sometimes teases me about it. However, he is my father… so it’s different. If he had a new wife who is not my mother, I’d probably be annoyed with her and think she was rude if she tried correcting me over the littlest things. I can see myself wondering what her problem is and why she thinks she’s so perfect, even if she was just trying to help me and wasn’t being mean.

JLeslie's avatar

I really hope her bad English is an obstacle to her career. I don’t mean I don’t want her to improve her grammar and get everything she wants out of her career, I want that for her, I just wonder if her English is so bad, what were her teachers like?

I’m not clear, maybe I missed it in the answers already written, does she make these mistakes in her writing? Maybe she speaks well in the right situations, knows what is correct, but uses slang and lazy speech among family and friends?

I probably would do a little correcting, it would be hard for me to let it slide every time, but I would only do it once or twice, and then if she continues to use the bad grammar I would not do it again. That is if it seems she really has no idea it is incorrect. If she knows, pointing it out is not necessary. However, what I would do, is not necessarily the best thing to do, as most people don’t want advise. I like when my husband corrects my Spanish, I correct his English once in a while, but we both want to do betterm but we also don’t want to have to worry about every little thing we say.

lonelydragon's avatar

I agree with @submariner. Perhaps she is code switching. I’m sure that if she is using that type of language in class, the teacher will correct her.

SuperMouse's avatar

@AnonymousGirl I have never read her writing so I have no idea if she uses appropriate grammar there. Also, I don’t think it is an issue of code switching; I don’t think she even realizes she is using poor grammar.

@JLeslie I agree with your point about it needing to impact her, that is probably the best way to help her learn.

marinelife's avatar

Why not ask her if she would mind gentle correction as a help toward achieving her career goals?

nikipedia's avatar

Why is your husband not helping his daughter?

I think if you start correcting this girl the most likely outcome is that you’ll become the wicked stepmother.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse It wasn’t so much that I was saying she will learn, like learn the hard way; it was more of me voicing a concern for our future generations, and lack of quality teachers. A close girlfriend of mine teaches elementary school and she makes some mistakes that make me cringe a little, but overall she speaks like where she lives, or makes mistakes that are very common like using between you and I instead of me. What can I say. But, she does not use double negatives, or anything that sounds very uneducated. I don’t know, to my ear certain mistakes sound worse than others. I know I make mistakes also, especially when speaking.

Also, @nikipedia just wrote something I was wondering also, why is her father not doing something about it?

Aethelflaed's avatar

Maybe you could start a conversation that leads her in the direction of help, without directly mentioning that she has a problem with this? I find it kind of hard to believe that she’s in college and isn’t getting graded down for this kind of error. So maybe something like “So, any big papers due soon?” ”[answer]” ”::sigh:: I remember how rough papers were. And always having to flip through my copy of Elements of Style (or whatever) to make sure my grammar was correct – such a pain in the tush!”

SuperMouse's avatar

@nikipedia I really don’t think her father noticed it until I started pointing it out to him. It is just the way she has always spoken. He has actually started a dialog with her about it but he really doesn’t notice it the way I do. I think some people just pick up on those things more then others. It has always been one of my pet peeves (I began correcting my own kids’ grammar as soon as they were using complete sentences – boy did I hear about that – but they all have excellent grammar!)

john65pennington's avatar

I agree with Longlydragon.

How did she ever make it this far, without someone else correcting her? And, especially going to college.

Her fellow college students will either correct her or make fun of her.

Never heard of code switching.

This is typical of some people living in the south.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse He doesn’t notice it? Well, that explains why she speaks that way.

GoldieAV16's avatar

One way is to simply repeat back to her what she said as a question – but using the correct form. Examples:

“I seen my friend at the mall.” “Oh, you SAW your friend at the mall? Did she say hi?”

“I didn’t go nowhere this weekend.” “Oh, you didn’t go ANYWHERE this weekend? What did you do?”

If you do that every time, she’ll either get it – or she won’t. But you’ll have tried!

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t mean to sound elitist, but impeccable grammar does not seem to be a priority in the part of the country where I reside. @john65pennington I don’t live in the south though. I think that because it is so commonplace it just isn’t as noticed as it might be in other areas.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@SuperMouse So if it isn’t a priority where you live, will it actually impact her ability to get a job?

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse Go right ahead, I am going to sound just like you :). I think it is a huge problem. I am ok with people using slang and bad grammar, as long as they know what is correct, and use correct speech enough that they can pull it out when necessary. Otherwise those people are stuck living in their corner of the country, instead of having the country available to them. I believe in the idea of a “common language” and multiple other dialects and languages are fine. People can be bilingual, even if the other language is ebonics or Spanglish, whatever. Basically English, but with its own twist. But, they need to speak the common language if they want to test well, or move out, and onto other things and places.

I would include while she is speaking to you she should speak proper English. I spoke differently to my grandmother than I did to my friends in high school.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Aethelflaed if she is looking to get a job in education, which she is, I think it will. I work in an academic setting and as a rule grammar is much better here. I also have to admit that I tend to think poor grammar makes a person sound ignorant, no matter what the norm is where one lives, and it breaks my heart that an intelligent young woman degrade herself. Yikes, that sounded really harsh didn’t it. Also, even though it might not be as widely noticed here as other places, I do believe many people notice and quite possibly judge people on their poor grammar.

@JLeslie I totally agree with your point and she probably couldn’t pull it out when necessary therefore this could very well limit her potential.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse Maybe ask her why she speaks that way? I don’t know. She will be angry no matter what you do to correct her, but you will be helping her in the end. If her dad is willing to do it even better.

I won’t say who when I tell you the next story, but recently someone I know who is pretty high up in a company here was telling me they just hired a new person who is black (I won’t btoher to explain why race came up) and thank goodness she does not say aks instead of ask, and he named a few other faux pas he deals with constantly. Another example I have mentioned before on fluther is my husband had to create a list of phrases the customer service people cannot use on the telephone. They were not being offensive, but they were using phrases other parts of the country would have no clue what they meant. All the managers and execitive level people in the company speak well and know the difference, even if they were born and raised here. That’s why those things sound uneducated I guess. So there you, there was my elitest rant. There of course are people who speak well here who are not CEO’s don’t get me wrong, but just saying their speech patterns are noticed.

My husband has a few mistakes he makes, very few, English is his second language, but they sound like mistake or seem understandable because he is ESL. They are cute, and he asks for help, an edit, when an official document is being published to the outside. But, if we had a kid I would never tolerate it or understand how they speak like that, make his mistakes, when they were raised in America by American schools. My neice and nephew are ESL, but raised in America, and their English does not contain any of the classic Spanish speaker mistakes.

Coloma's avatar

I think it’s important to remember that any of us that have strong propensities in certain areas are weak in others.
This applies to almost everyone.
I am well spoken, articulate and pretty damn grammatically correct, my punctuation can be off at times though and I try to catch those errors however, put a complex mathematical problem in front of me and I’ll fail miserably. lol

You may be more mathematically inclined than I am, and I may be more grammatically correct, but, nobody holds a monopoly on EVERY subject.

This is where we are called upon to have some humility and be aware that the person whom is “lacking” in one area, may excel in another.

The old friend I spoke of that had a very poor command of the language could run circles around me with her sensibilities when traveling in foreign countries.

Holy shit, if not for her I’d have never gotten around on the Taipei metro system a few years ago when traveling in Asia.

That woman was a travel guru!

Beware of having an elitist mindset about anything.

6rant6's avatar

Daughter-in-law? Hell no.

That relationship is problematic enough without adding this. If your carping makes her unhappy, eventually your son will have to choose between having a happy wife and seeing you. I know which one I’d choose.

Beyond that, no, you don’t have a right to tell her what she does wrong. How would you like it if every time she saw you she critiqued the way you dressed, or said how uninformed you were about current events, or commented on how horrible your home decor was?

What makes you think grammar is that important?

Yeah, keep it to yourself.

morphail's avatar

The fact that she uses nonstandard language in conversation doesn’t mean that she would teach it to children. We all use different language in different contexts, and she might be aware that her conversational dialect isn’t appropriate in a classroom. I’m not sure that the teacher’s language has much impact on child language acquisition anyway.

SuperMouse's avatar

@6rant6 FYI, she is my step-daughter, not my daughter-in-law. It is in my parental-type capacity that I would even consider trying to mention it to her. Also, carping is much too strong a word to describe how I would handle the situation. I have the discretion to handle it with much more diplomacy than to carp on her. I do hear yours and @Coloma‘s point about one person’s strengths not necessarily being another person’s strengths.

@morphail I am not concerned about her teaching her students improper grammar, it is more about how she presents herself to the folks considering her for a position as an educator. If seems poor grammar might hinder her in an interview for a job as any kind of teacher.

gailcalled's avatar

that the person who is “lacking” in one area, may excel in another

Dutchess_III's avatar

@morphail You damn skippy the teachers have an impact on student’s grammar! Just ask my students.

I subbed for a teacher once who had the WORST WORST WORST grammar. He had notes posted around the room that were hideous. I, personally, think he should never have gotten a position teaching anyone, especially not elementary school kids.

@SuperMouse Somebody else will bring it to her attention. Hm…could you contact one of her professors and see if she could do a lesson on grammar? I wonder….do you ever watch home movies? I wonder if she’d catch it if she heard herself? I know my husband would be mortified to hear the way he says things sometimes, if he heard himself saying it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@gailcalled That’s right! Cross @Coloma OUT! She don’t know nothin anyways!

smilingheart1's avatar

Only if you have a strong constitution, are looking for a fight and have a big bottle of Aleve waiting somewhere close by like Santa’s snack table.

morphail's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’d like to see some evidence that teachers have an affect on students’ grammar. Children have acquired a large part of their native language before they even start school. “By the age of four, most children can ask questions, give commands, report real events, and create stories about imaginary ones – using correct word order and grammatical markers most of the time. In fact, it is generally accepted that by age four, children have mastered the basic structures of the language or languages spoken to them in these early years.” (How Languages are Learned, Lightbown & Spada, Oxford University Press)

A teacher using negative concord (for instance “I didn’t see nothing”) isn’t going to make a child suddenly start using negative concord, if negative concord was not part of the child’s language already.

Parents don’t even have much of an effect on certain aspects of their children’s language. Children who are raised in an English-speaking country end up speaking English with a native accent, even if their parents speak English with a non-native accent.

@SuperMouse you make a good point that your language can influence how others see you, and a teacher would do well to use standard English in a job interview.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma I see your point, but 10 year olds have reasonable command of a language, this isn’t calculus. Plus, she wants to be in charge of little children. Don’t you think it is important she isn’t saying I don’t got nothin’?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I wouldn’t correct my stepdaughter but I would make mention to my husband and let he and his ex say or not say anything. It’s worth a mention because she wants to teach.

jca's avatar

It might not hurt her in her career hunt because she may use correct grammar in a job interview. If she goes to college, she probably knows correct grammar (i.e. knows that double negatives = wrong) but she might just be lazy. She may hang out with people who use incorrect grammar and that’s where she picked it up.

I would not correct her. I would ask the hubby to correct her, otherwise I would hold my tongue. She may learn, she may not, but it’s not something I think you’ll be successful with.

SuperMouse's avatar

@morphail, while the individual I am speaking of is planning to go into early childhood education, and will be working mostly with pre-verbal to newly verbal children, I think @Dutchess_III does have a point about teacher grammar impacting students. If a student hears their teacher, a person they are looking to as an example, utilizing poor grammar, they could very easily be inclined to pick up the habit. As an example, where I live, nearly everyone asks ”where are you at” rather than ending than ending the question at you. Because this sounds so awful to me I do not ever end a sentence with at and have taught my children not to do so either. Now that they hear it from their teachers quite regularly, I have heard my kids say it and have had to help to keep it from becoming a habit. This at thing at the end of a sentence crosses all lines here, I have had PhD college professors as me where a book is at. Argh!

I also disagree that parents don’t have much effect on their children’s language. I am a stickler for good grammar and (as I mention up thread) have been since they started forming sentences. As a result my children are in the habit of using proper grammar.

janbb's avatar

After vetting it first with your husband and if you feel close to her, I would get into a discussion with her, saying you’ve noticed her using non-standard language, voicing your concerns and then asking if she wants your help with it. If she says no, then no it has to be.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse I think there is nothing wrong with asking for better grammar to be used in your home if your husband will go for it. Like I said earlier, my grandmother corrected my English enough, that I realized around her I needed to not use so much slang or lazy grammar when with her.

One problem with her regularly speaking poorly, in my opinion, is some of it does become habit, she will be more likely to use bad grammar around the kids if she uses it a lot in general. And, sometimes, over time, what “sounds” correct gets fuzzy. I am around Hispanics enough that I am unsure of myself sometimes, because I am around their English. On fluther I see so many things written in British English, I have a hard time knowing what spelling is correct with certain words. Judgment, judgement, travelling, traveling, saviour, savior, gets confusing.

morphail's avatar

@SuperMouse But do you think your kids are inclined to say where are you at solely because their teachers say it, or because it’s part of the dialect of your region? I think the second is much more likely. If the teachers ended every sentence with carrot would your children pick up that habit?

I’m also skeptical that children pay attention to explicit corrective feedback. This example is from D McNeill. 1966. “Developmental Psycholinguistics” in F Smith a GA Millers The Gensis of Language:

Child: Nobody don’t like me.
Mother: No, say “Nobody likes me.”
Child: Nobody don’t like me.
[... Eight repetitions of this dialogue…]
Mother: No, now listen carefully; say “nobody likes me.”
Child: Oh! Nobody don’t like me.

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie my husband and I have had conversations about poor grammar in front of her and she has said out loud that she didn’t even realize what she said was incorrect, so I think your point about the lines getting fuzzy is valid. Her daughters use the same type of grammar as she does and I do correct their grammar when they are in my care.

@morphail, you make a great point about them picking up on the local dialect. I do think thought that their teachers using that dialect does probably reinforce the kids’ use. However, I do think correcting my children’s grammar consistently has been effective. When they were first acquiring language I corrected incorrect grammar but did not insist they use it. Now that they are older I insist on correct grammar and their is no doubt in my mind it has helped them learn and use proper grammar.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse Did you follow up by asking if she would like to be corrected? I have said to my husband, neice, etc., I want to be corrected if I make constant errors in Spanish that do not communicate my message well.

stardust's avatar

I wouldn’t go down that road. Surely, if she’s studying to be a teacher her tutor can correct her.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@morphail We teachers TEACH grammar. Everything we do has an effect on our students. Granted, the parents may teach bad grammar, and the kid may never change their habits, but when I’m done with them they KNOW what is correct and what isn’t.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse What year of college is she in?

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie she is just starting at a community college, this is her first year.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III There must be teachers out there with terrible grammar though, otherwise how can so many children speak so poorly? I just don’t understand it. Do you? The children I know who are bilingual have a competely different language spoken at home, and as long as they go to decent schools their English is perfect, or as close to perfect as any other child in the school. I don’t think language at home explains the whole problem we are seeing today.

@SuperMouse Oh, that gives me hope.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes, @JLeslie…kids will be far, far more likely to speak the way their parents speak.
I think that the instant media plays a big part in the grammar issues we see. More people who are illiterate are writing on comments and blogs. I’m not sure it it’s worse today, or we are just more exposed to it than before.

morphail's avatar

@Dutchess_III Right, a teacher can’t simply use certain grammar and expect that the student will make that grammar part of their language. This is what I meant when I said that teacher language doesn’t have an impact. The teacher has to explicitly teach it, so that the students understand it. But that still doesn’t mean they will actually use it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Actually, that is another thing I don’t understand, most of media speaks pretty decent English. Most sit-coms, hour shows, educational shows. How can someone be unaware?

My point earlier was the teachers have a huge influence in my opinion, and the other students in the school. Again, my neice and nephew do not make the English mistakes their parents do, because they went to decent middle class schools in America. At home they speak Spanish. They correct their mom’s English. Her English is very very good but she makes some typical mistakes found with ESL.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, it IS pretty obvious she needs some grammar guidance, just a very sensitive topic to address with someone.

@gailcalled Haha….ol’ Hawkeye Gail ;-)

Brian1946's avatar

Ain’t the correct expression should be, “She done gone nowhere”? ;-p

Dutchess_III's avatar

No @Brian1946 It’s “She’s went nowhere.”

Brian1946's avatar

@Coloma @Dutchess_III

Thank youse ma’ams.

SuperMouse's avatar

Um excuse me, I’m pretty sure it is “she goed nowhere.”

Brian1946's avatar


I think you am right.

Now all you have to do if you want to help her with her grammar, is just link her to the last quips in this thread. That should learn her real good!

jca's avatar

Some people find it condescending to be corrected all the time. I would let it go, and let her learn from life experience.

6rant6's avatar

@SuperMouse I’ll generalize and say “family” then.

And whether you call it carping is pretty much immaterial. It’s how she feels about it. And as I said, how would you feel if she unilaterally decided it was time to tell you how to dress? Even though she’s probably right.

SuperMouse's avatar

@6rant6 hey now! For all you know I dress impeccably! She would be absolutely wrong if she had the unmitigated gall to comment on my wardrobe.

6rant6's avatar

@SuperMouse It’s entirely possible, she speaks the way she likes to sound. But you think you have the right to tell her she’s wearing the wrong shoes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I just had the following conversation with my 8 year old granddaughter. Her mom was driving and had to pull over she was laughing so hard.

Brande: “We only got 3 presents.”
Me: “We only HAVE three presents.”
Brande: “Yeah. Under the tree.”
Me: “No. You need to say ‘We only HAVE three presents under the tree!’”
Brande: “Well, that’s what we got and I already said it so why do I gotta say it again?”
Mom pulls the truck over.
Me: “Brande…you should not say “I got.” It’s “I have.”
Brande: “Well, me and Aden…”
“Aden and I !!!!”

And that just ended every thing right there because I think Mom peed her pants! Mom speaks proper English, but Brande’s father’s family doesn’t and most of this farming community doesn’t either. So, we’re working on it.

Coming out of Walmart later, I was glad to hear that Brande had been thinking about it, because she asked why it was wrong. I just said that it was, and if you don’t learn to talk properly people will think (pause)…....that you have never been to school.

6rant6's avatar

“Coming out of Walmart later”


I’d loosen my grip on the grammar stick, Dutchess.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@6rant6 That was just silly. There are times when it is best to be casual, as in my post above, and a time for being formal. I know how to write and speak properly, and my point is that the kids need to know it too because one never knows when one will need to use it. I don’t really care if they don’t always use it but they need to know about it. Does that make sense to you?

6rant6's avatar

@Dutchess_III There are many things we need to learn, like technology, and science and manners. All of us, for as long as we’re alive.

My point is that we don’t all have the right to decide for other people what __they__ need to be working on. Unless of course they’re posting on Fluther, which is kind of an “open season” invitation, don’t you think? Which is why I say, Dutchess, if you’re trying to make a case that you are educated and sophisticated, I would eschew the use of Walmart in your stories.

Many people would say that it’s important to know how to use an iPhone, or how to verify a rumor on Snopes, or how to Salsa, or know all the teams in the NFL, or read cursive, or achieve orgasm without a partner, or drive a stick shift… And they are all right in that in context those things are important. But I’d find it pretty cloying if someone felt they had the right to __correct__ me at will because they know one thing I don’t.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think it is important to teach children to say “I have,” and “We have,” and “Fred and I” and not to say “We was,” or “We seen,” ......that is very, very basic, basic grammar. A person just sounds stupid saying things like, “We was going…” and that is universal. A person saying, “I couldn’t care less about football” does NOT make them sound like they are stupid, unless they’re applying for a coaching position with the KC Chiefs…wait…that could explain some things about that team!
Trying to compare basic grammar to using an iPhone or how to tango is just silly. Again.

Further, these are MY grandchildren and I do have a right to decide what is best for them, which happens to dove tail (usually) with their parent’s wishes.

6rant6's avatar

“I do have a right to decide what is best for them”

Uh, no you don’t. You’re entitled to your opinion – which most often you should keep to yourself. Their parents have limited authority to tell someone in college what to do.

If you want her to come visit you in the nursing home, I suggest you start treating her like she has something to offer rather than something you have dominion over by virtue of ancientness. Just sayin…


Dutchess_III's avatar

College? What are you talking about?

I most certainly do not keep my opinion to my self when my kids are small. It’s called raising them.

You are being utterly ridiculous @6rant6 and I don’t think you understand children or the situation at all. If we don’t teach them, who will?

6rant6's avatar

@Dutchess_III Oops. When you said they were your grandchildren, I thought you meant that literally. If they are actually your children, well, then that’s a different kettle of fish.

The OP’s original question was related to someone in college.

“When my kids are small [sic]...” What does that mean? Does that mean when they WERE small you taught them how to speak? Well yes, of course, parents must do that. Are you saying that they oscillate like Alice and when they are small you instruct them? Help me out here. Are you obfuscating the age of your offspring, or are you just using bad grammar?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I have generations of kids, @6rant6. I don’t treat my grandchildren any differently than I treated my kids when they were small, unless their parents specifically request it. For example, I’m a Christian, but if one of my kids told me they didn’t want me taking the kids to church I wouldn’t do it. If they never, ever wanted me to give them candy, I wouldn’t. I would never do something that their parents didn’t approve of, whether I think it’s harmless or not. By example, that teaches / reinforces basic RESPECT for their parents. That example is one tiny piece of glitter in their overall upbringing which their parents are mostly responsible for, but which I still have a hand in whether you approve of it or not.

Brande is literally my granddaughter, and her mother was with us during that exchange. Corrie, my daughter, got the same corrections growing up.

I still don’t understand what college age children has to do with our discussion.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Who’s on first? Hahahaha. That was so funny. I once had the “got” argument with a jelly on here. I couldn’t find it because I don’t remember the main question, and I use got so much (even though I hate when I say it) so a whole bunch of unrelated Q’s popped up.

My grandma corrected my as long as she was alive. She died when I was 40.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I catch myself using “got” incorrectly too, @JLeslie : ( It’s how everyone around here talks. Bleh!

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Just to be clear, I was explaining to her not to use got and she was trying to explain to me it is a legitimate word, it is the past tense of get. Hahahaha. Finally I gave her examples of better word choice, I received the letter, I bought a new dress, whatever examples I provided, and she gave up. Either she was tired of me or finally understood my point. I hope it was the latter. She had started it by commenting on one of my answers; I had written my grandmother always corrected me when I used the word got.

SuperMouse's avatar

@6rant6 I have never said anything about her shoes or how she dresses and I think you are comparing apples and oranges. A quirky fashion sense may make one seem eccentric or style challenged, but it certainly does not make one sound ignorant; consistently using poor grammar has the potential to make one sound ignorant. For the record, I am a woman who is extremely style challenged; I would be pleased to take fashion advice from someone with more talent in that area.

JLeslie's avatar

I was watching a TV show a couple of days ago, and throughout the show there was banter about the various groups in NY, the Irish, Hispanics, blacks, etc. At one point one of the characters said something and the pretty white blond detective restated it like a correction, but also to make she understood. The guy said back, “you speak your English, I’ll speak mine.” Bbbbbbut, the whole point of speaking, communicating, is to be understood. Isn’t it?

morphail's avatar

@Dutchess_III wrote: ‘A person just sounds stupid saying things like, “We was going…” and that is universal.’

No, it isn’t. It is normal for someone to say “we was” in southeast England and in African American Vernacular English. It might sound stupid to you, but it doesn’t sound stupid to everyone.

JLeslie's avatar

@morphail I think it sounds stupid. It says on your link about England it is a dialect, that in written documents people use, or are expected to use standard English. It mentions people in power and authority seem to set the standard, which would also agree with the alternative definition of dialect, which refers to social class as opposed to the regional definition. I don’t see how people argue that uneducated dialects are just as valid a form of English as educated ones. I do not mean people cannot use their dialect and slang, but the purpose of spoken and written communication is for people to understand each other. Sure we adopt words from many different languages in English, but changing things around grammatically seems a little too far. Not using adverbs, bad verb agreement, it’s too much for me. LOL. I make mistakes all of the time, but I prefer not to, I would prefer to have better knowledge of the rules and regs. I realize in the last 500 years the English language has changed, even grammatically, but again, I am reluctant to see major changes in modern day.

Fighting against conforming, and not giving our children the knowledge of the expected language of business and power, means they have much less chance in doing well in either.

Ebonics being used without also knowing standard English hurts African Americans, how does that seem to be working for the black people who mainly speak that dialect? I have absolutely no problem with dialects being spoken at home and among friends who use it, but when in mixed company, the expectation should be to swicth to mainstream English. I had work colleagues from Jamaica, their American accent was perfect, but when they spoke to each other I could barely understand them their Jamaican dialect and accent was so strong. A ok with me.

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie is precisely right in her post following yours above. Dialects do not replace standard English among educated people who know the English language. It’s fine to use dialects among others who speak it, but using them instead of standard English among people who speak standard English will leave one branded as “ignorant”.

plethora's avatar

@SuperMouse I know exactly what you mean. My experience is that no matter how bad the person’s grammar, they are insulted if they are corrected. I’ve tried it more than once to no avail. An English teacher explained to me that the reason for this is that people speak the way they are raised, not the way they are taught in school. Therefore, they believe they are speaking properly if they are speaking the way they were raised.

morphail's avatar

@plethora I never said that dialects replace standard English among educated speakers. My point is it’s not stupid to say “we was” if that’s part of your dialect and you’re speaking to other people who also speak that dialect.

I am also not against giving children the knowledge of the language of business and power. But instead of teaching children that their language is stupid, why not teach them that everyone uses different language in different situations, and when it’s expected to use one variety of English and when it’s expected to use another. In two words: linguistic register.

When people say that one dialect of English is just as valid as another, they mean valid linguistically. Yes one dialect might have more social prestige, but linguistically it’s no better than another dialect.

JLeslie's avatar

@morphail I see your point. Ok, a dialect is not stupid, but not having the judgment to know when to use it is a problem. Too many people don’t know. I don’t feel people are teaching children in America in the ghettos (and I use ghetto as a statement of a lot of people with similar ethnic background amd socioeconomic status) that there is a standard English that is expected in certain situation. Rather too many of them reject the idea, literally push back as not wanting to conform. Maybe here on this Q you are teaching us the validity of the dialects (although all along I have said I am absolutely fine with people using their dialect in the right situation) but who really needs to be taught the validity of well spoken English is the people who seem hell bent on using their dialect everywhere, and not even knowing the difference. It is rather ignorant to not recognize, as Oprah would say, “English is your friend.” I say ignorant, not stupid. Well, ignorant if they are never taught or shown why it is important. If they know and refuse to conform, that might be stupid.

On a different Q someone pointed out that communities who speak in dialects had more iliteracy, and so their speech is farther from the standard of the written word, that makes sense to me.

6rant6's avatar

@SuperMouse Come on now. If she told you every time she saw you how your look wasn’t good, you don’t concede that would rile? Especially, if she implied that educated and sophisticated people know how to dress well, that better opportunities come to those who dress well, and that she knows how to dress well, wouldn’t you find that condescending at a minimum? And it’s certainly true.

I’m sure you might ASK someone for advice. Doesn’t mean you want it hurled at you whenever it strikes her.

6rant6's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’m perplexed now that you’re so insistent that your __grand__ daughter be so careful with language when you’re being fast and loose. No, you don’t got generations of children. You have children and __grandchildren__. You might as well start calling them your chattel or your wards or your pancakes. They aren’t that either.

“Either she was tired of me or finally understood my point.” I know just how she felt.

JLeslie's avatar

@6rant6 But, who is talking about every time. I think @SuperMouse could correct her a few times until she began to say it correctly, whatever it is, and explain why. For instance why a double negative is incorrect. That could be her contributuon as a step mom. That is if the step daughter is willing to listen. The same way @SuperMouse might ask her what length she should hem a pair of pants, or come with her on a shopping trip for an event. My husband asks me how to say things correctly, sometimes I don’t know the answer and have to look it up myself.

And, what are you saying, that grandparants should not teach their grandchildren? That is just pure craziness to me. My grandma taught me to swim, set the table, and corrected my English. My aunt taught me to shake hands well. My mom taught me to cook. My grandpa taught me fractions at the beach by drawing pies in the sand. Letting kids just do whatever the hell they want with no guidance does not help them. Children like to learn, it can sometimes be like a game to them. that is why if we can teach them these things at young ages it is less painful for everyone.

6rant6's avatar

@JLeslie Teaching is a different activity than correcting. Do you agree?

I do think family members have a responsibility to help one another become better people. And to that end there may be some unsolicited advice. But the family members do not have a right to correct. Nor is there an obligation to correct grammar. I mean, my god, if that’s the worst thing she’s doing, I’d start lining up those sainthood votes now.

You say Supermouse might ask what length to hem her pants. How is that even a rough analogy to spontaneous criticism? Obviously if the offspring asks how to say something, no feelings will be hurt if someone offers their opinion.

The idea of correcting “until she began to say it correctly” is licensing __endless__ correcting. You can see that right?

I guess with all things that involve diddling with the behavior of the ones we love, my motto is pick your battles. If grammar is foremost in your mind, then I guess ya gotta.

Just don’t expect them to come visit when you’re in the nursing home.

And once again, the OP’s question was about a child IN COLLEGE, not a three-year-old.

SuperMouse's avatar

@6rant6, @JLeslie is absolutely right, I am by no means suggesting that when she says “I don’t got no nice shoes” responding with, “Darling step-daughter the correct way to say that is ‘I don’t have any nice shoes’ they way you have said that is woefully incorrect and makes you sound as though you are an uneducated nincompoop.” As I have said, I have more discretion and diplomacy than to speak to a young adult in such a manner. I would more likely handle it in a way that would not alienate here.

JLeslie's avatar

@6rant6 I said @SuperMouse can correct if her stepdaughter is a willing party. That is the same as asking for advice. But, I think maybe @SuperMouse can go as far as to offer her help, because the stepdaughter might never ask on her own,

Correcting is teaching. Sure unsolicited advise can be received badly, almost everyone on this Q agrees to that, in fact @SuperMouse asked the question because she is conflicted about what to do, because she is not completely unaware of how some people do not receive criticism well.

What are you assuming she is going to do, harp on every last word the girl says? Come on. How stupid do you think she is? We are?

Hopefully, while in college her speech will improve just by being around people who speak better. I have a hard time understanding how she might have placed on level for English class. Most schools have placement tests I thought?

plethora's avatar

This discussion of the best way to parse dialects is just fine among us. But I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard ebonics used by “educated” teachers in the school systems of the South. It is not rare occurrence.

gailcalled's avatar

Hopefully, while in college her speech will improve.

As a purist, I still do not like using “hopefully” as a substitution for “I hope.”

Am I in the minority of people who consider themselves well-spoken? I hope not.

Traditionally, “hopefully” means “full of hope.”

“Will my sister slip on that sheet ice?” the boy asked hopefully.

Who decides? The common man; the staff of the New Yorker or The New York Review of Books; the members of Facebook?

jca's avatar

I am full of hope that while in college, her speech will improve.

gailcalled's avatar

I hope that you are right.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Correcting is teaching.” perfect @JLeslie

“Either she was tired of me or finally understood my point.” I know just how she felt.. @6rant6 I didn’t say that. @JLeslie did. Pay attention!

@jca I hope so too. Man, my husband’s daughter was taking college courses and she’d come over after class so I could help her. One time she brought me a paper that someone had “corrected.” Who ever it was, and I PRAY it wasn’t the teacher, had crossed out her correct, “I could have” and replaced it with “I could of.” They had to pry me off the ceiling!! Mercy, I HATE that! When my students do that….well, none of them do it any more!

I also correct “I seen,” “We was,” etc.

But…according to @6rant6 what ever anyone does is correct if other people are doing it, so I shouldn’t correct them in any way.

Could you imagine having a President who said things like ,“We was”? Well…we wouldn’t. He wouldn’t make it past his first election speech.

6rant6's avatar

Hey @Dutchess_III, you have enough trouble expressing your own point of you. How about if you don’t misstate mine as a rude and transparent device?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Could you be more specific? Not sure which part of my post you’re addressing.

6rant6's avatar

Dutchess_III “accoring to @grant…”. That part. Where you made up my position.

Working from the OP’s post (which I imagined was the SOP here) she injected her grammatical pontifications into another conversation. They were not well received.

I didn’t say anything akin to “what ever anyone does is correct if other people are doing it”. And the misspelling “what ever” is yours not mine.

gailcalled's avatar

@6rant6: They were not well received. By using the passive voice, you remove yourself from the discussion.

Do you mean, “I did not like what she said”?

And if you are going to be rude, mind your own typos. Viz: you have enough trouble expressing your own point of you.

6rant6's avatar

@Dutchess_III They were not received well by the intended victim target stepdaughter. You know, the person who was there at the time. To receive it.

Let me introduce a new idea, since these dead horses are already drawing flies.

I like to hear well-spoken speech. I like to read well-written and grammatical writing. I fancy myself to be well-spoken.

And I would credit my parents with much of that. Not that they corrected me, mind you, but that they spoke well themselves. So I learned without any effort on my part to say, “we got have no corn dogs in the fridge.” and “We got have other choices than going to Walmart.”

It’s never been my position that speaking imprecisely or even speaking in ways contrary to the generally accepted standards is preferable. I think there is value in speaking well, speaking grammatically. My issue comes with this attitude: __because I know this thing better than you I am completely licensed to correct you whenever it occurs to me.__ Note that I did not say, __however__ it occurs to me. I am not saying that you are rude and unreasonable because of the way you say it. I am saying that the condescension expressed in the act of correcting a college-aged person’s grammar is offensive, unwelcome and ultimately personally isolating. I think you should treat anyone going to college as an adult. I wouldn’t correct the grammar of adult friends or business contacts, or family. But maybe that’s just me.

Your kiddles – after they turn 12 or so – aren’t going to learn grammar from your corrections. They are going to learn to do what you __do__, namely be critical of others.

like this.

morphail's avatar

@gailcalled The OED’s first citation of “hopefully” as a sentential adverb is the New York Times Book Review in 1932. That’s gotta be well-spoken enough for you?

Traditionally, “hopefully” means “in a hopeful manner” (OED), but there are lots of other adverbs that mean “in a X manner”, and that are used sententially, and no one complains: “happily”, “luckily”, “frankly”, “clearly”.

the history of hopefully

gailcalled's avatar

@morphail: I know. What to do?

I believe that at present the NYT does not use “hopefully” as a sentential adverb.

I love learning a new word. Today it is “sentential.” Thank you.

Perhaps because one can say “I hope,” it is easier to use the two for different reasons.

That does no apply to “happily,” “luckily,” “frankly,” and “clearly.”

Years ago I heard Leonard Bottstein (the president of Bard college) give the keynote speech at the annual meeting of The Country Day School Headmasters’ Association.”

He made the case that using “I hope,” or “we hope” indicates that “I” or “we” are taking responsibility. I have always remembered that. I wonder why?

morphail's avatar

What to do? Recognize that there was nothing wrong with it other than usage writers didn’t like it, and that modern usage writers are softening in their stance toward it?

“Happily our team won” – “I’m happy that our team won.”
“Luckily our team won” – “It’s lucky that our team won.”
“Hopefully our team will win” – “I hope that our team will win.”
etc. The usage of these adverbs seems exactly the same to me.

SuperMouse's avatar

@6rant6 while I am thoroughly enjoying your characterizations of me “carping” on my husband’s daughter and “injecting” my “grammatical pontifications”, you really seem to have the wrong idea here. When I did point out incorrect grammar, it was not in a pontificating manner, it was in a very matter of fact way. She gave no impression whatsoever that she found my words or tactic offensive. If indeed I decide to pursue of path of helping her improve her oral grammar, I would certainly do so in a diplomatic and kind manner.

Also, I completely disagree with your assertion that a person over the age of 12 cannot improve their grammar based on corrections from others. I happen to know for a fact that correcting lazy or poor grammar can have the effect of improving grammar – I have seen it with my own eyes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My father was raised in a speck of a town in Texas. You can imagine the grammar he grew up with! But when he was grown and was faced with the choice of working in the oil or going to college, he choose college. He consciously tried to “get rid” of his drawl (with a lot of success, until he’d get mad at us! “Whaat were ya’ll thankin’? I oughta beat ya s’verly ‘bout the head and shoulders!” (He’d say that in a joking manner.) I’m sure he also had to correct his grammar. I’m assuming that because he always spoke properly while I was around.
So sure. Anybody can change. They just have to want to.
@SuperMouse does your Step D know bad grammar when she hears it coming from someone else? Maybe…you could comment on other peoples mistakes while you’re with her.
I wish you luck. A college degree isn’t going to be worth much if you talk like a back woods hick who didn’t get past 3rd grade.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to Walmart again.
Good bye.

JLeslie's avatar

@plethora That is what I was talking about though the thread, even the teachers speak the dialect; I find it very upsetting. That means they graduated college and still speak and teach using Ebonics. The children are at a horrible disadvantage. Maybe once the black community begins owning more business and having more power in the country, around the country, it won’t matter. At that point they will have altered the demographics of the socioeconomic strata and have a wide breadth of opportunities, and even have changed the dictionary, but that seems like a more difficult road, and hoping a lot changes in a short time.

Not to mention that every Chinese, Mexican, German, name a country, learning English in their countries will not be learning Ebonics, and so for international business purposes it is not very realistic.

I literally know black people who tell me they don’t want to have to conform to the white world. I never heard this growing up in DC or NY, but I hear it in Memphis, I see it on my facebook wall. Instead of looking at it like all people, including white people, conform to the business world, and th expectations of their social class, at least to some degree. Some black people seem to think that every white person who wears a suit every day loves having to wear the suit.

Anyway, it goes back to my point that if children have standard English spoke in schools, they can overcome or be bilingual, with their dialect at home and standard English when needed. But, you seemed to say earlier that you think children tend to think their parents speak correctly and go along woth that example no matter what. That has not been my experience with children who are Asian and Hispanic. Maybe it is more difficult when the language at home is a dialect of English.

@gailcalled I was not aware hopefully is considered less acceptable. Interesting. I’m going to google and see what is written about it.

gailcalled's avatar

@JLeslie : Here’s a measured and funny discussion of it; you decide where you want to take a stand.

Scroll down to the second emboldened subtitle.

Hopefully: the troublesome sentence adverb”:”

“Curiously, one (and only one) of these sentence adverbs has been subjected to virulent attacks: hopefully.

he same war is being waged over the single nominal pronoun and this;

The student decided to take his? their? basketball and go home, sadly ruining the game.

jca's avatar

@SuperMouse: you said she is your stepdaughter, and that she “gave no impression whatsoever that she found my words or tactic offensive.” Perhaps it did bother her, but because you are her husband’s wife she did not want to get into it with you. My mother has been married to my stepfather for about 30 years and to this day, my relationship with him is not the same and not as close as my relationship with my mother. Just a thought.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You know, once they know hopefully they’ll correct themselves. After my kids were about 10, all I had to do was give them a look and they’d fix their sentence. : )

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, the teachers speak the dialect (Ebonics) and the children are at a horrible disadvantage. I couldn’t agree more. Certainly in the most southeastern states (which would include Memphis “MS”).

Lest we get entirely disheartened, the gentleman who was my personal business banker when I was in Jackson MS was Black and spoke beautiful English without a trace of Ebonics…and did a very professional job. Black or White, I love it when that happens. Great service professionally delivered.

judochop's avatar

GTLA, all day, every day, all ways.

Just what if Ebonics is where it is at? Just what if for one second, you are wrong. Could you handle it?

JLeslie's avatar

@plethora Oh, I am only referring to a subgroup of African Americans, certainly many speak beautiful standard English. For that matter there are other races using Ebonics also. It is more attached to socio-economic issues than anything. Race is never the real deiner in my opinion, it always comes down to money.

@judochop I touched on that in one of my answers. If the Ebonics speakers gain power, own more business, then maybe they can start changing the dictionary, but until then, Ebonics only speakers 95% of the time put themselves at a disadvantage in the country and the world. Why? Why resist speaking like the higher educated, more powerful classes? I just don’t get it. It is not about intelligence or race. 12 year olds can speak standard English. 12 year olds can also be perfectly bilingual. It doesn’t take a college degree to speak well. Sure the more educated generally the broader ones vocabulary, and even fewer grammatical errors, but the basics, if children are just exposed to both, and actively use both, it isn’t a problem.

From what I remember the Ebonics explanation from years past was it made sense with the structure of the former African languages used by African Americans. My response to that is: so? So, if I emigrate to Spain I get to insist Spanish should not use double negatives, because English doesn’t? Because my first language is English? It makes no sense to me. Plus, Ebonics goes way beyond that explanation anyway, I think it also has to do with poor people, and immigrants, not being able to read. They don’t have the visual cue of how words are spelled to help them pronounce. That’s why a bad Jersey accent probably sounds as it does. It’s not just the south and black people. My last name is very tricky for most Americans. What I do is I tell them to look at my name, and I repeat how to say it, almost every time they then say it out loud looking at my name, and forever more they pronounce it correctly.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m pretty sure I know what Ebonics is, but could you give me an example or two?

gailcalled's avatar

Some examples of many on Google.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That is awful!

And check out the grammar of the person who posted a defense of it: “is an actual dialect of english. just like any other dialect of english it will be slightly different from english. Is does have SYNTAX. Verbal marking, its own phonological system different from english. This is not what blacks do to not learn english. ”

I guess that says it all, huh.

DominicX's avatar

@Dutchess_III Any linguist will tell you that it is a real dialect. Denying that is foolish.

gailcalled's avatar

@Dutchess_III: It is the vernacular of choice in the Philly (and probably many other) black low-income neighborhood.

My youngest step-son was able to speak both Ebonics with his friends and the Queen’s English with his school mates and family.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder if people work as interpereters and translators? Goodness knows contracts are not written in Ebonics, how can they do business if they can’t understand standard English? Buying a house? Even signing a rental contract. In FL our standard rental contract on the realtor website asks if the tenant understands English, and if not there is a space for the interpreter to sign as well. We have sales contracts ready to print in Spanish. People can take the drivers test in Spanish, and there is a Spanish handbook to study from.

The stepdaughter in question, how can she test well if she does not even notice the difference in the sentences? It is very interesting, because standardized tests have been said to not correctly evaluate minority populations. I tend to think it is evaluating something though. Not being able to understand and communicate in standard English is going to make it harder to be successful in college and in most business settings. IQ tests might not be accurate, but acheivement tests would and do reflect ability in my opinion, because the language barrier matters.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@DominicX I’d call it slang. That’s not to say it isn’t acceptable in casual situations. I use slang common to Kansas often. But I would never use it if I was interviewing for a job or writing a formal paper.

Funny you should mention of my students was born in Philly and lived there till he was 10. He misses it because in Philly, he said, “We all look the same and we all act the same.” Sometimes I have a REALLY hard time understanding him, and we’ll end up going back and forth on a word, repeating it back and forth, like a stand up comedy team in a ping pong match, with me trying to figure out what he’s saying, and he keeps saying it the same way! Finally he’ll look at me and v e r y slowly re peat it. It just cracks the class up! : ) He talks strictly in “Ebonics.” It’s catchy, it’s colorful, I love it, but he sure as hell knows not to say “I seen,” or “We was,” at least not in my classroom! I’ll make him redo a paper until it is as ‘professional’ as he can make it. He needs to know this stuff. Everyone does.

DominicX's avatar

@Dutchess_III Right, but something being dialect is unrelated to how “acceptable” it is. Many people consider the entire dialect of the Southern United States to sound “uneducated”. People have many biases about which dialects sound uneducated, sophisticated, etc. One being one way or the other doesn’t negate its legitimacy as a dialect.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Funny, I even do that with many words regarding pronounciation. Like right now we are in the holiday season, and I say Merry Christmas. Many people say Mary Christmas, even though they spell it correctly. They cannot hear the difference, even when I say it the two different ways. In New York, merry, Mary, and Marry have three distinct pronounciations.

I have an acquaintance named Jenny, and she was complaining that when she lived in Alabama they called her Jinny (remember we live here in Memphis, so still the south) I said to her, that’s a southern thing, many people here pronounce pen pin. She replied, “I think I do that, I say pin.” So I looked at her and said, “but it is spelled p-e-n, like J-e-n.” She realized how ridiculous she sounded. Some parts of the country look more at the actual spelling of words I think. I don’t know exactly what it is though really. My husband is ESL and cannot say sill well, he always says seal. He can say bill, Jill, mill, but sill, really really tough for him.

gailcalled's avatar

I could make the case (today for example, when I had a flat tire) that I should know and need to know how to take of and maintain my automobile.

I could make that case that everyone needs to know how to cook, or sew, or use a chain saw, or build a dry wall or plant Jerusalem artichokes or write software or repair a toilet that is leaking.

We can’t all know everything. It does balance out. My neighbor for twenty years spoke 8th grade English but had wonderful information and knowledge about the local soil types, the indigenous plants, the way to brush hog a field and some good techniques for avoiding tick bites. We made a good team.

JLeslie's avatar

@DominicX I can’t remember if I said this already on this Q, I tried to look back before possibly restating it. A relative of mine who is ESL asked me once, “why do you think a southern accent makes people sound stupid?” She meant it as a serious question. This is someone who has no preconception of the various regions of te US. She also pointed out that to her British accents sound more educated.

I wasn’t sure what the real answer is. I tend to think the speed at which someone speaks make a big impression. Someone who takes a long time to get their sentences out sound like their brains are working slower, especially if they draw out their words. That bothers me more than a specific accent. I just find it interesting that even a foreigner who does not speak perfect English perceives these things. Then again someone who is ESL learns standard English generally, not all the little local twists and turns used in specific regions in the US.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled But 8th grade English is different than speaking in a dialect. I can understand an 8th grader, he is just using simpler language in general, not language that sounds made up to me.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@gailcalled Someone else made that argument. Being expert on soil types, or writing software comes in handy if you plan to go into those types of careers. They’re very specific. But being able to speak properly is universal. Being able to speak properly might mean the difference between getting that job writing software, and not getting it. It might mean the difference between whether people take you seriously, or not. Take the example I copied in my post above. It’s hard to value the opinion of someone who writes like that. It may not be right, but that’s the way it is, like it or not. You never know what could hinge on simple impressions.

Let’s say two people are applying for a sales position. The question comes up, “Why do you want to be in sales in this company?”

One says, “I want to be in sales because I genuinely like working with people. I have been researching your product and and I believe wholeheartedly in it’s effectiveness and I believe I could become one of your top sales associates.”

Another says, “Because I can get jiggy wid it man! I can rap to da folk! I seen what your stuff can do and I’m down wid it, man! I really dig it! I be’le I could be da bomb in dis bidness!”


morphail's avatar

@Dutchess_III Ebonics is also known as African American Vernacular English, and it is a dialect of English with its own rules, as linguistically valid as any other dialect. It is not simply bad English. This can be shown by the fact that when people try to imitate it, they make mistakes. For instance, there’s a difference between “John running” and “John be running” in AAVE; the first is equivalent to standard English “John is running”, while the second expresses a habitual aspect, so it means something like “John is usually running every day”.

JLeslie's avatar

@morphail As long as the speaker can answer the following question I am tolerant. Here’s the question: “Do you mean John is running now? Or, that he runs often?” I know you know the answer, I am just saying if the person I am speaking to is speaking in a dialect, and I realize we might be miscommunicating, when I try to clarify, I hope he can explain to me specifically what he means. Vice Versa two. That if he might be misunderstanding me, we can say it a few different ways to understand each other.

My husband has trouble with prepositions in English (very common for Spanish speakers). He frequently uses for when he should use about. He will say, “I don’t care for getting a new coat.” Using for to me means he is completely against the idea, not interested at all. But, he usually means about, as in we don’t have to go shopping for a coat today, we can work on the yard instead. I know prepositions are tricky for him, so I usually question him when he makes statements like this to clarify.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@morphail Well, doesn’t matter who opines that it’s a valid language. If they use it in the wrong situation they’ll come out on the short end of the stick if the person they’re addressing has the opinion that it sounds ignorant.. If you’re in a job interview and you say, “I be workin’ at XYZ company!” rather than “I am currently employed at XYZ company,” you lose.

morphail's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’d say it matters to the AAVE speaker that their own language is a real dialect of English, rather than stupid or awful or slang.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK. But they can’t blame anyone but themselves if they wind up at dead ends because they’re unwilling to concede to using professional English when it’s needed.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III The thing we need to ensure is the teachers and school are speaking and teaching standard English. Both @plethora and I seem to be worried about that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It concerns me too because I’ve met more than one teacher who has poor speaking skills. If I was a principal, I’d make that a priority.

plethora's avatar

@Dutchess_III “Weaigonomeig” That is a sentence spoken in Ebonics by a Black person at McDonald’s on numerous occasions to me. Notice that it is both one word (to you and me) but an entire sentence to the speaker. It follows not one single rule of standard English grammar.

One distinguishing factor of Ebonics is that all final consonants in every word must be dropped, so that the “sentence” will roll together into one continuous word.

Translation: We ain’t got no milk. Or as you and I would say, “We have no milk”, Sir, may I get you coffee or something else?

SuperMouse's avatar

Back in 1996 the Oakland, California school district decided to add Ebonics to its English curriculum. They even went so far as to try to recruit bi-lingual teachers. I remember it being very controversial at the time and that it did not last long. If memory serves, the idea didn’t even last an entire school year. I tend to think they might have been on to something. This seems to be a way of legitimizing the language while helping speakers understand that it is a dialect and code switching is a necessity. On the other hand it could be likened to helping southerners or others in areas with strong accents/dialects to slip in and out of using them, which for some translates into degrading their very culture.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse I actually am against ESL programs in primary school. I don’t think a young child with a language besides English as their primary language should be coddled in any way. They should be immersed in English period. Secondary school is different, but there is no reason to worry about Ebonics in secondary school if primary is using proper standard English. These kids are born and raised in America who are using the Ebonics dialect. I’m glad Cali ditched that idea fast.

@morphail Just curious, how many higher educated people do you think use Ebonics in situations where they are speaking to people who do not know Ebonics?

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie I tend to disagree with you about English language learners. I do know that schools are rethinking how best to help students for whom English is their second language.

In response to your question for @morphail, I had a college professor who spoke fluently in Ebonics and could speak the Queen’s English just as fluently. He spoke to students using whichever dialect was more familiar to them and spoke to the class as a whole using Ebonics to make certain points. I really think the key is code switching students’ cultural/ local dialect has to be respected but they also have to understand that if that is their only resource, it will definitely hold them back.

morphail's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t know. My point is simply that AAVE is a real dialect of English with its own rules, etc. The social situations in which one should or shouldn’t use AAVE is a completely separate issue.

JLeslie's avatar

The reason I asked about the educated person who switches from Ebonics to standard English, is because if we demonstrate that lesser educated people use Ebonics in situations that standard English is warranted, maybe that actually reinforces why it sounds uneducated or ignorant.

@morphail I think that might be the problem in this partiluclar conversation, you are focused on whether it is a legitmate dialect, and most people are focused on how it sounds to us and when it should be used. We are discussing two different things.

@all Related, but unrelated. I just saw on TV this morning a study about some town in WV, although, she said most of rural America has similar numbers. I do not know what grade they were looking at, but the stat was the average kid there had a vocabulary of 5,000 words, and the average in the US same age is 10,000. They were talking about education specifically, but also mentioned the parents at home did not have large vocabularies either.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hm. What they’re calling “Ebonics” was known to us growing up as mumbling and slang.

I’ve subbed in ESL classes, and I have to agree with @JLeslie. They stick a kid in there just because he or she is Asian (or Mexican, I suppose) with no regard to how well they speak English. I came across a Vietnamese kid who had been in my daycare. His name is Wichita (I came across him again a few years later in Middle School. He wrote the funniest things about Shakespeare’s plays!). I stopped cold when I saw him and said, “What are you doing in here? You speak English just fine!”
He said, “I unno!! They just tell me to come here!”

6rant6's avatar

@Dutchess_III You’ve convinced me. We should all go back to speaking English like it was meant to be spoken. Like the King.

JLeslie's avatar

@6rant6 Haha. That’s good. :)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Not necessarily, @6rant6. Tis not necessary to go around speaking and writing the King’s English at all times like you have a corn cob up….. Tis only necessary to know HOW to do it. (PS. You had me worried so I checked. Everyone said they’ll visit me in the nursing home! I didn’t want to go into the specifics of “nursing homes” for the little ones, so I asked my grandaughter, “If I wound up in the hospital for some reason would you come visit me?”
She looked at me like I was nuts and said, “Of course!!” So that’s one big load off my mind. Back into the fray!)

@plethora re your comment All sentences in any language sound like one, long run-on word. It’s only noticeable if you don’t know the language and don’t know what they’re saying. If one of my kids apologized for stepping on my toe or something my response would be “Sarite. Inoihwusunaaccidnet.” If I was in a formal interview, however, that would be considered mumbling.

plethora's avatar

@Dutchess_III My very point. If the young Black girl is going to be selling me (a white guy), then she better be talking to me in standard English. Im most surely not lowering myself to her level and speak ebonics…..except as a joke.

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