Ali Husain – “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” by James Baldwin – Response

In “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What is?”, James Baldwin states how language is important and how it has evolved over time. Baldwin writes “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate”(Baldwin 1).In other words languages are made to be able to converse our ideas, felling and concerns with one another. With difficult experiences and difficulties people evolve their language. An example of this would be when Baldwin mentions, “ Blacks came to the United States chained to each other, but from different tribes: Neither could speak the other’s language . . . and under these conditions, the slave began the formation of the black church, and it is within this unprecedented tabernacle that black English began to be formed” (Baldwin 6). The slaves were not all taken from one tribe but in fact from many different tribes. All tribes had different ways of communicating, so this created a language barrier between slaves. To amend this problem they created Black English. In hopes of increasing the rate of survival as well as building a community.

One quote that caught my eye was, “A Frenchman living in Paris speaks a subtly and crucially different language from that of the man living in Marseilles; neither sounds very much like a man living in Quebec; . . . although the “common” language of all these areas is French”(Baldwin 1). All these countries or cities speak the same language which is French but yet none for the most part comprehend what the other is trying to say. This is because they all have different characteristics which allow them to form different identities. Not only is this true with french but other languages as well. For instance how different dialects of spanish are spoken in different countries. When the latin Americans speak spanish the people who speak castilian Spanish can not perceive what they are saying. The people who speak Andalusian spanish can not perceive the Mexican or caribbean spanish.

Comments ( 4 )

  1. Christopher Collaguazo
    Nice summary and I liked when you mention about language and the way many people use it. You mention " languages are made to be able to converse our ideas, felling and concerns with one another." This is true for many people in the world, they are able to communicate with others so that they can be heard by other people.
  2. Ruben Genao
    Great summary, it's understandable and well thought out. To me what I noticed the most was when you said "languages are made to be able to converse our ideas, felling and concerns with one another" This is true and another reason supporting the idea that languages are made solely because of necessity since in times of slavery slaves had to converse and talk to carry through harsh times.
  3. Christopher Lara
    Ali, overall you summed it up pretty well. You mention how language can be used to converse ideas, feelings, and concerns, but I more specifically liked how you explained how language can also be used to group people and not always being able to bring them together.
  4. Bryan Nunez
    Great summary, it's understandable thought out. You made really good point and you really explain what Baldwin was saying. And your summary was great because you gave your own example on how you interpret the quote.

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