DEA Needs 'Ebonics Translator' to Understand English
US Justice Department Seeks 'Ebonics Translator'
The DEA is having trouble understanding what the subjects of some of its investigations are saying. The US Justice Department put the word out that the DEA's Atlanta field office needs Ebonics translators: people who can readily speak African American English.
Without addressing whether or not it considers Ebonics a true language, the DEA acknowledges that the phenomenon is crippling its ability to understand some of its own secret recordings.
The document (linked above, via The Smoking Gun)lists Ebonics as a "common language" in the US, which raises the question of why a US-based agency has so much trouble understanding it. Were none of Atlanta's active agents raised anywhere in the South? The DEA is, to an extent, admitting an inability to speak English.
Many in the southern US are proud of their slang (just ask Trick Daddy or Ludacris), but for a law enforcement agency to be genuinely unable to transcribe audio tapes containing conversations between African-Americans speaks to a major disconnect between law enforcement and community. It's worth considering whether or not simply hiring "ebonics translators" will solve the problem.
The DEA also needs people familiar with Creole patois, Jamaican patois, as well as languages such as Yiddish, Korean and Farsi.
The language request for Ebonics speakers is not a joke, though the DEA is about to become the butt of late-night talk-show humor for sure.
According to the proposal, the Atlanta field office is also looking for 144 Spanish linguists, 12 Vietnamese, and nine each for Korean and Farsi.
The Linguistic Society of America has shied away from taking an official stance on whether Ebonics is a legitimate language, but has said the fact that it's spoken with such frequency means it cannot be ignored.
Experts in Cockney rhyming slang are not apparently in high demand at this time, at least not by the DEA.