Position Statement of the TESOL Board on African American Vernacular English (March 1997) 

The Board of Directors of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is committed to strengthening the effective teaching and learning of English around the world. Its mission is to develop professional expertise and foster effective communication in diverse settings while respecting individuals' language rights.

In accordance with its Policy on Language Varieties (October 1996), TESOL affirms that the variety of English known as African American Vernacular English, Black English, Ebonics, and sometimes by other names has been shown through research to be a rule-governed linguistic system, with its own lexical, phonological, syntactic, and discourse patterns and, thus, deserves pedagogical recognition.

The Board notes that effective educational programs recognize and value the linguistic systems that children bring to scohol. These programs use these linguistic systems as an aid and resource to facilitate the acquisition of Standard American English. Research and experience have shown that children learn best if teachers respect the home language and use it as a bridge in teaching the language of the school and wider society. Likewise, if the children's cultural and social backgrounds are valued, their self-respect and self-confidence are affirmed and new learning is facilitated.

TESOL thus advocates that teacher education include instruction in linguistics and in developing partnerships between home and school.


This statement was approved by the TESOL Executive Committee in March 1997.