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The DEA’s ‘questionable’ request for ebonics translators

The DEA’s ‘questionable’ request for ebonics translators
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In what sounds like the setup for a comedy sketch, the Justice Department is seeking experts in “ebonics,” or black English. According to The Smoking Gun, a Drug Enforcement Administration office in Atlanta wants to hire up to nine experts in the slang-heavy dialect to help translate wiretapped conversations between African-American suspects. “Hiring translators for languages that are of questionable merit to begin with is just going in the wrong direction,” says a representative of English First, a group that advocates English-only laws in the U.S. Does the DEA really need linguists to understand bugged calls between English-speaking Americans? (Watch a local report about the need for ebonics translators)

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Ebonics isn’t a language, just a way of speaking: The government can’t be serious, says Jonathan Capehart in The Washington Post. First of all, “jive,” as ebonics was once known, “ain’t even a language.” It’s just a relaxed way of speaking — lopping off words, running them together — that millions of African Americans can slip in and out of with ease. The DEA has some “chutzpah” treating it like some mysterious foreign code.

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