How to lose your accent
The term African American Vernacular English (AAVE) became popular in the mid to late 1980’s as a way to describe the unique pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar and substitution patterns used by African Americans which make this speech pattern something beyond a simple dialect. For instance, a person using African American Vernacular English pronounces the “th” sound found at the beginning of words as a “d” sound, causing words like “the” and “that” to be pronounced as “da” and “dat”, similar to how they are enunciated in the most extreme forms of the Chicago accent.
How to lose your accent: African American English and code switching
Unfamiliarity with the dialect can come about through sheer ignorance or a deliberate refusal to recognize African American Vernacular English as a legitimate dialect, on the grounds that it is “improper English”. Linguists view African American Vernacular English as a proper dialect because it communicates a shared messaged between two or more people, creating a common understanding.
The question of whether African American children should be explicitly taught the rules of African American English in the household is still one that is being debated today. Some African American parents believe their children will be better able to fit into society if they learn to adopt a dialect that is closer to standard American English, a dialect that is immediately reflective of their education level. Others believe it is vital that their children be able to “code switch” between African American English and something approximating standard English. African American children who grow up in neighborhoods with fewer African American children are less likely to speak African American English as their standard dialect. In such situations parents of these children may attempt to educate them on the grammatical rules of African American English privately over a period of years, as code switching will allow these children to communicate to a variety of people without sounding as though they have lost touch with their heritage.
How to lose your accent: AAVE and Accent Reduction classes
If you are an African American business professional wondering how to reduce your accent/ use of African American Vernacular English within the office, consider accent reduction therapy. In this situation there isn’t necessarily an accent that needs to be corrected, however an accent reduction specialist will likely ask you to provide a recording in this setting to get an idea of what expressions you most commonly use, allowing them to develop an individualized plan for success. In the meantime you can read up on how to reduce your accent/vernacular usage through listening.
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