Mejia said she has no statistical evidence that the program is accomplishing the goal of bringing African Americans into the mainstream. Supporters of black English programs cite research on other language groups, such as those whose primary tongue is Spanish or Chinese, to bolster their arguments that using the primary language to help learn English is an effective practice.
Curtius reported from Oakland and Woo from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Richard Lee Colvin, Amy Pyle and Lucille Renwick contributed to this story.
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Black English, or "Ebonics"
The Oakland school board has declared black English a second language. Backers of the move say the district is the first in the nation to recognize "Ebonics" as the language of many blacks. Here are some descriptions of characteristics of the language, and samples of phrases in standard English and black English.
SAMPLES OF PRONUNCIATION CHARACTERISTICS
* Black English, or Ebonics, simplifies consonants at the ends of words. Thus, "hand" becomes "han."
* The final "ng" sound drops the "g"--so "walking" becomes "walkin."
* The final "d" is dropped after vowels--so "good" becomes "goo."
SAMPLES OF GRAMMAR CHARACTERISTICS
* Shortening of the third person present tense, as in "He walk."
* Use of "done" to emphasize an action has been completed: "He done did it."
* Use of stressed "been," as in "She been married" for "She has been married for a long time (and still is.)"
SAMPLE USAGE COMPARISONS
Standard English Phrase: Black English Phrase
"He goes to work.": "He be goin' to work."
"She will be first in line.": "She-uh be firs in line."
"You're crazy.": "You crazy."
"Six million dollars.": "Six million dollar."
"My mama's name is Mary.": "My mama name Mary."
"There are two of my friends who have just come.": "It's two of my friend, they just come."
\o7 Sources: The American Speech, Language and Hearing Assn.; Associated Press; Los Angeles Times research.\f7