English as a language is used by several people, about 215 million speakers, in America as their first language and also as a medium of communication in the majority of institutions of learning. The language is a requirement for success in a number of professions like the field of medicine and also non-professional occupations and therefore it is a basic requirement in American education. Among the major reasons for teaching the English language has been to discourage the use of native language particularly in North America. Even though the language is not recognized as an official language in America because there is no official language in the federal government, the language is still awarded official status by more than30 states. (Romaine, 2003 pp19-26)
History of English language in American education
English started being taught in American institutions as a second language because of wide usage and although it was initially viewed as the American native language, today that belief has gradually faded away and continued to assimilate different cultures in American education. The department of education in America recognized English as a mode of instruction with a view to meet a number of objectives in American education, among them, being to come up with a proper definition of English as a standard language that caters for educators, workers in the informal sector, political leaders especially the ones in the government and the general community as well as curriculum developers in all levels of education.
Teaching the English language in American education was viewed with an ability to equip the learners linguistically and with different cultures for better communication and proficiency in the language within the American society. Along the line of communication, it was aimed at engaging students in conversations with each other and thus obtains information easily in the interaction as well as communicates their feelings and opinions. Understanding and interpretation of written information on various topics became easier for many students through the teaching of the language. (Bryson, 2005 pp27-29)
The cultural aspect of the English language in education was to enable students to gain knowledge in their studies and improves their understanding of other cultures in America. This could bring a positive relationship between different perspectives regarding culture as studied and general practices, as well as the products of working knowledge. Through the English language, the learners gained knowledge from other disciplines and broadened their viewpoints in connecting these disciplines. The education is also meant to give the student the insight to compare their native language with the English language as well as their culture with the one taught in the English language. The language was also meant to enhance participation both within as well as outside the school setting for an individual’s enjoyment throughout one’s life. (Algeo, 2004 pp36-47)
How the English language affects the success of African-Americans
African- American English is widely used by many African-American citizens in America and its main characteristic is that it is rule-governed with addition and deletions which makes it unique from the other dialects in American English. The development of African-American English was important in ensuring that appropriate linguistic services were offered to African-American pupils and students.
Initially, African-American children were taught in special education classes and their parents were uncomfortable claiming this was a form of discrimination and an approach that could stigmatize the children based on their differences in their languages. The African-American children were believed to be a hindrance to success against the white children and the teachers were biased regarding the language ability of the African-American children. (Baugh, 2005 pp31-38)
Teachers were ordered by the courts to appreciate African-American English as a language for home use and therefore they should make use of it in helping the children to read. For the African-Americans, English language has a profound impact and is critical in determining their academic success. If an African-American child is not able to communicate in standard American language, then he or she stands disadvantaged because the understanding of the context is low.
When these children are enrolled in formal education, they are not able to utilize their curriculum and therefore lag behind those who can comfortably speak and write standard American English. African-American children also tend to be over-selected as among those who require special education because the tests that are supposed to be a standard measure also have an inherent bias. (Paul, 2004 PP43-51)
There is an alarming gap as far as academic performance is concerned between the African-American and the children of the white. The current number of African-American children being attended for special education services is also very high and it is impacting negatively on their reading, writing, and speech without their awareness. There is therefore the need for consideration of the African-American language with its rule-governing principles and also consider the social factors that determine the percentage usage of African-American English. A lot of improvement is required on the understanding of English communication skills of the African-American children especially at the time of school entry.
Bryson B. (2005): An informal history of English language in the U.S.A: William morrow and company pp. 27-29.
Romaine S. (2003): History of the English language: Cambridge University press pp. 19-26.
Algeo J. (2004): The Cambridge history of the English language: Cambridge University press pp. 36-47.
Baugh J. (2005): The English history of African-American English: William marrow and the company pp. 31-38.
Paul S. (2004): black American English: New York: Dell PP. 43-51.