A Historical Evening, November 4, 2008

Barack Obama has been elected the first African-American President of these United States! A true first…..unchartered territory. My blog tonight comes from my work with African-American English. I find it very interesting that most of my African-American clients tell me that once they begin to use what they learn in our sessions concerning speaking Standard American English, their families and friends at home accuse them of speaking “white”. Observation tells us that most all respected African-American leaders speak Standard American English in public. Why? Because Standard American English (SAE) is the standard for corporate America. It is not a race issue. Whatever you speak, if it doesn’t meet the standard of corporate America, you will encounter barriers on your way up the corporate ladder. Consider the spoken English of Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Alabama’s own Artur Davis. You do not hear non-standard words or grammatical errors. They get it. They understand that credibility is tied to the way we speak. What can you do to insure that you are using SAE?

  • Use complete word production…avoid lazy pronunciation
  • Every time you speak, remember to use your tongue, lips and teeth to make the sounds
  • Take a grammar class….at the very least purchase a book on grammar at your local bookstore
  • Stop dropping off word endings e.g. workin’ for working, whassup? instead of “what’s up?”
  • BE is not a verb to use in speaking e.g “He be walking”….use the forms of BE e. g. am, is, are, was, were,has,have, etc.
  • “ask” is pronounced “assssk” not “aks”..think of a donkey with a “k” sitting on his rear end!
  • “says” is pronounced “sez” and not “sayz”
  • Use Webster’s Dictionary online to make sure that you are pronouncing words correctly
  • Make sure you are using a “th” and not a “d” for words that include the “th” sound e.g. “dis” for “this” and “dat” for “that” “birfday” for “birthday”
  • Be careful to say “street” and not “skreet”

These are just a few tips for producing SAE. It will make a difference in how you are perceived in the work environment and it may impact your earning potential!