Post 1: “Should Writer’s Use They Own English?” Reflection

When sitting down to read Vershawn Ashanti Young’s article, my first impression was that the piece was put through Google Translate several times and then published. While it initially took some adjusting and re-reading to understand the author’s style, it became clear that Young’s title question addresses the argument that individuals should accept and embrace various adaptations of what’s known as “formal English”. In contrast to his dialect, he presents selections from Stanley Fish’s “What Colleges Should Teach? Part 3” to display how “traditional English” and its “higher caliber usage” can only further harm BIPOC communities by utilizing unfamiliar vocabulary to create subtle micro-aggressions against those who “don’t understand”.

Not only does Young speak more directly and to the point than Fish, he utilizes sophisticated lingo and heavy concepts (like lack of racial tolerance & linguistic prejudice and its effect towards BIPOC) in a way it can be easily understood. The author takes Fish’s argument and not only makes it his own, but makes it more welcoming and accepting of others, as individuals should try to be (rather than Fish’s divisive way of thinking). Through doing so, it proves “intellectual English’’ is established to create loopholes of which those in power can utilize to their advantage simply by unclear and indirect language. In this way, people in power permanently oppress BIPOC communities as this “formal English” curriculum cycles from one generation to another, therefore being taught to adapt and enforce this standard of the language.

This is found especially in college, where you’re judged on your formal English structure and format for assignments worth large portions of your grade. Universities fail to acknowledge the prejudice built into the current practice. College students are urged to use unnecessary convoluted language and big words in the urge to “sound academic”, but losing their message, their “why”, and their “because” (instead of being taught various academic ways to write). Young practices what he preaches, by combining “black vernacular” and “formal English dialect” into “plurilingual” speech; and proves how language diversity, language expansion and creative language are both more forgiving, more accepting, and easier to understand than one manner of communicating. He highlights that code meshing exists (Spanglish, AAVE, etc.) and is widely used, but it’s often repressed in formal settings to convince us it’s informal, embarrassing and something to be ashamed of rather than be celebrated.

After reading this piece and contemplating on Young’s words, I was able to connect a modern practice of his article’s intentions. Similar to this piece, Hamilton (argued to be modern theatre’s biggest break-through) successfully uses plural linguality when expressing its story of our founding fathers through prose, rap and melody, adding to its accessibility and mass popularity/enjoyment. (If you haven’t heard any of the music from the show yet, here’s a taste of what you’re missing.) The show’s education program, which encourages students from Title I-eligible high schools to use their creativity and voice to retell history similarly to how they do in the show, spreads a familiar message of accessibility and community to future generations to practice. By taking “formal English” primary sources and translating them through a modern lens, it allows everyone to connect with their history and use their interpretations to effectively communicate with others, similarly to how Vershawn Ashanti Young preaches.

While I initially wasn’t expecting to look up words and ideological practices (like acquiesce and remedial training) when reading this article, that expectation further illustrates the author’s point: assuming one’s intelligence is lower simply because it doesn’t “fit the English norm” in unacceptable. Although this piece was the farthest from what I initially expected to be the first academic article of the class, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of enjoyment and insight it delivered. After this read, I’m looking forward to other content that we’ll digest throughout the semester in this class.

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Lizzy Lourenco

Lizzy Lourenco

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