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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Language, Race, and Culture: African-American Women and the Challenge of Writing for the Academic Audience

Elisabetta LeJeune.

In the rural southern United States, many black American women returning to school after being in the work force face difficult challenges when they decide to pursue higher education. The difficulties that they have to overcome in learning the language of academia become an obstacle to successfully complete core requirements. These women are entering fields such as lower education and nursing. Although they may have the drive and qualities to be successful in those careers, they lack basic communication skills that are needed to be a successful college student. The language problems can easily be identified in a dialect pattern of incorrect agreements and verb tenses and forms. The patterns are so tightly embedded in the language written and spoken that a change will involve a relearning of one's native language. Often this change meets another obstacle which has to do with the student's sense of cultural identity and the student's perception of her own culture as inferior or not good enough. The students will need to understand how and why the change is needed. Often this understanding is connected with painful and emotional issues of self-identity and self-worth. The questions that this paper will attempt to answer are: If they are not prepared to adapt to the requirements of standard English, how have they successfully completed high school, and why have these problems not been dealt with in high school? How can we help these students adapt to the expectations of the academic environment? This paper will focus on case studies of American students who have faced and overcome these challenges.


Elisabetta LeJeune  (United States)
Instructor of English
English Department
Southeastern Louisiana University

Elisabetta LeJeune was born in Italy and moved to the United States in 1978 to teach Italian in Louisiana. In 1980 she graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with an M.A. In 1981 she graduated from the University of Rome with a Laurea in Foreign Languages. In 1986 she graduated from Tulane University with a Master of Arts in Teaching with an English as Second Language Endorsement. Presently she is an instructor of English at Southeastern Louisiana University where she teaches English 101, English 102, and Italian. She has taught English 101 on line during the past three years.

  • Language
  • Race
  • Culture

(30 min Conference Paper, English)