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Speakers of ‘street slang’ required

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is recruiting speakers of ‘street slang’, according to an article in the Guardian today.

Apparently the DEA is hiring nine people who understand black vernacular English to translate wiretaps and stand up evidence in court. Ebonics is the term coined in the mid-1970s to describe US black vernacular English, and is sometimes dismissed as slang rather than a language.

American officials have in the past denied that there is any such thing at Ebonics.

“A lot of times people think you’re just dealing with a few slang words, and that you can finesse your way around it,” John Rickford, a Stanford University linguistics professor, told the Associated Press. “And it’s not – it’s a big vocabulary. You’ll have some significant differences.”

Although Ebonics has been rejected as a concept by many scholars, it drew nationwide attention in 1996 when a school board in Oakland, California decided to recognise it as a primary language and to offer instruction. (Source: The Guardian)

The acclaimed television series The Wire is a famed for its impenetrable language, which includes the use of street slang.

But Ebonics isn’t the only language the DEA is recruiting translators for – it’s also seeking people fluent in such diverse languages as Farsi, Baloch (an Iranian language), Chimora (from Guam) and Norweigan. It just goes to show what a range of languages are spoken in the United States!