make WWAY your homepage  Become a fan on facebook  Follow us on twitter  Receive RSS Newsfeeds  MEMBERS: Register | Login

DEA looking for Ebonics translators

READ MORE: DEA looking for Ebonics translators

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Ebonics, or African-Americanized English, is causing headaches for the US Department of Justice. So the Drug Enforcement Administration is looking to hire nine translators to listen to wiretaps especially in the Southeast. Linguistic experts recognize Ebonics as a dialect of that formed from rhythm and sound. "Just like you have British English, you have Australian English, you have Jamaican English, you have English spoken in Ireland, so you have Black English," said Dr. Maurice Martinez. He teaches a lecture on Ebonics to education students at UNCW. Martinez says the dialect formed during slavery when it was illegal to teach slaves to read or write, so they used ebonics to communicate without getting into trouble. The DEA says dealers and users now use the dialect for the same reason. "As a new narcotics officer, I did get lost in the translation a little bit, but it quickly becomes second hand to you," said Sgt. Leslie Wyatt, an officer in the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office's Vice and Narcotics Unit. He says the average person wouldn't understand a typical conversation between a dealer and a user. Martinez says the importance of a concept can be judged by how many words people have for that concept. "Snow is very important to an Eskimo: hard snow, soft snow, slushy snow, crispy snow," Martinez said. Wyatt says that's why dealers and users have so many names for drugs like cocaine. "From ya-yo, to ya, to white, or girl, powder, the list goes on," he said. "And as soon as the mainstream picks it up, guess what they do? They drop it and invent a new one. So it's constantly changing." That's why the DEA is recruiting translators for more than 100 languages and dialects, including Ebonics. But Wyatt says drug dealers don't really use a dialect. Instead they speak in code. "We've had some people say, I want to play basketball at 5:00,' and that's referring to, 'I want five pounds of marijuana,'" Wyatt said. It all just adds some linguistic complexity to the war on drugs.


Click here to view "Black American English: No Child Left Behind" by Maurice Martinez, Ph.D

For the full interview, click below...

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


They can't even pick up

They can't even pick up their pants, what makes you think they can learn to speak correctly???


Maobama could apply in January 2013.


I don't see what the problem is....? It's a job. SOMEBODY's got to do it. and just FYI ... "ebonics" were around a LONG time before they decided to name it and give it all this attention. It's not another language "Just like you have British English, you have Australian English, you have Jamaican English, you have English spoken in Ireland, so you have Black English" .... it's as simple as that. I know how to speak ... my CAREER depends on me speaking ... but when I'm at work I just have to think about what I'm saying and how I say it. When I'm anywhere else, I just let it flow. I'm not stressing myself out 24-7 just to make sure that I'm saying every word just as Webster's says I should ... lol ...

DEA looking for Ebonics translators

This is ridiculous. I am a 41-year-old African American woman and was raised inner-city in a city of over 5 million people. Black folks just need to learn how to speak properly. Period. We don’t need some other crutch or excuse to lean on. We just need to choose to speak well. I don’t appreciate anyone, no matter what color, calling this ignorance “Black English” or “Ebonics”. If you’re going to call it anything, call it Slave English; It’s more historically accurate, and should be studied as a part of our past, present, and at least our near future. It should not, however, become the assumed or accepted standard, nor should it be equated to Black people on a whole.

Excellent post

Thank you for posting some common sense. I've often thought that it isn't race that divides us, but values and culture. The more homogenous our language, the more we have in common and the better we understand one another.

Black folks who are in the

Black folks who are in the business of cooking and selling illegal drugs need to, am I reading this correctly, "learn how to speak properly"??

Seriously, this is you're argument?? That when conversating about the sale of illegal narcotics they should 'learn how to speak properly'?? Don't you think, for a single second, that MAYBE this is to cover what they ARE ACTUALLY DOING????????????????????

Very well stated!

That's about as clear and truthful as it gets! Thanks for your eloquence!!!

that's nothing more than

that's nothing more than drug talk or slang. it has nothing to do with ebonics, whatever that is

I lived in London for grad

I lived in London for grad school a few years back. When I applied the application clearly stated: THIS IS ENGLAND, WE SPEAK ENGLISH. SO SHOULD YOU. This meant you had to pass an English proficiency test or you were not getting into school. Here in America, our culture has been dumbed down to the point where now someone needs an ebonix translator? Ebonix is not English. It is street talk crap, tolerated by the lunatic left-wing ideologues which have destroyed our school system and therefore aiding and abetting the destruction of our culture. How disgraceful is it that we need a translator to understand those born, raised, and educated here!

This is a TOTAL waste of

This is a TOTAL waste of money. They are trying to figure out nignant speak, drug codes, et. al. ewe-bonics is a speaking of the made up tounge similar to the child like things we did as a child. Oda eaquira yma riftda?

Ebonics? Are you kidding?

Ebonics isnt a language. Its lazy broken English created by uneducated, lazy, anti-establishment people that refuse to conform to the social norm of American English. They dont have ebonics in any other country but the USA.

So now the vice and narcotics squad is going to give legitimacy to this lazy translation of english by hiring a translator? ARE YOU KIDDING US? It doesnt need a translator. Just pretend youre lazy and stupid and youll understand it. Code words have been around since biblical times and are pretty easy to understand if you just think like a vice and narcotics agent (which youre hired to do). Drug dealers arent linguistics experts and able to form complicated codes. If they were, they wouldnt be drug dealers.

How about this vice and narcotics/ law enforcement/ lawyers/school board/ parents...youve managed to let ebonics spread throughout our elementary and high schools to a such level of indecency that you can hire a 13 yr old to translate it for you, or just watch about 2 hrs of tv a night and youll have a fairly good grasp on the "language".

And WTF is WWAY doing hosting and posting links to this joke of a professors BS opinions? This guy has concocted a spot for himself as a "professor" by using the race card to promote his "belief" that this is a language...and youre going to promote it by offering links to it? what a joke.

This has NOTHING to do with slavery and EVERYTHING to do with race and caving to that certain race of people who are using something that happened 400 yrs ago to make others feel guilty.

How about this...GET OVER IT and get with the rest of society and speak how the rest of us do, not in some archaic, lazy, embarrassing to yourselves bastardization of the english language.

whats next?

Oh yea "Professor" of the race card...

As a "esteemed educated professor with expertise in race", you should be well aware that the term "eskimo" is as racist as the "oh so offensive" N word.

They are called Inuit (n. pl. Inuit or In·u·its also Innuit or In·nu·its) and Inuk [ɪˈnʊk], singular.

Judging from your lack of use of the proper term, Im now labeling you a racist, who is insensitive to the Inuit people and a hater of all Inuit culture. You will need to step down from your position as "Race Manipulator" at UNCW and go to work in the wilds of Alaska with its native people for 8 weeks. Then, admit publicly that you are ignorant, racist and lack the ability to understand other cultures, go to the NAAIP headquarters and apologize and do everything else you require of anyone not black that criticizes blacks.

Upon doing so and meeting the criteria of an apologist racist, Ill still call you racist and mention it to everyone I ever talk to or see that goes to UNCW.

E word

You may want to check your facts,Eskimo is still used in Alaska.Not to mention Eskimo Pies.

no, you might want to check yours...

While the term eskimo may not be "as" offensive to some as the N word, it is still used as a derogatory name in the locales from which it originated. Rather than say its racist at its core, it is deemed offensive by most native americans.

Theres a cool thing called google that you should use to check your facts before you go on a forum making posts where you think you know what youre talking about.


Add the F word ahead of Eskimo and that may be offenisve.I don't think they like Eskimo Pies,they only eat raw meat (I know how to Google).

Not only...but also, if you can make the connection

A professor uses as an example not only a reference to a culture that he is too careless to acknowledge, but also the same old comparison that we have been hearing for years. The snow example? Jeez, don't think too hard.

So, you're telling us that there are many ways to refer to cocaine, including snow, just as there are many ways to refer to...snow?

Go on, professor! or g'wan, perfessor.

Hmmm. It's not a language after all, it's dialect! Ask Mark Twain.

Inner gangsta

u got to be kidding me. Just get a "50 cent" CD. Come on guys get in touch with your "inner gangsta".


Yo! This shizzle is whack, dawg. Don be gon racist sayin dey need ebonics translators to see what dem brothas be do-in. Dats straight up ignert foo!

Funny thing.....

I understood every word you said...LOL. Its one thing to be able to speak it but to write it as should apply.

You win


Werd! You nailed that

Werd! You nailed that shiznit on the mug. I be spekin ebonics fo years now. Just like evolution that jam be changin....I amember when jivin was a cool term. No that's wack, Da DEA just need to post what they be needin to know online an we fools can translate dat junk fo free. Luvs me some ebonics.


Ebonics is just another concession that society is making to help its "oppressed and victimized" members. Frankly, I'm sick of it. As long as you keep a group of society down by perpetuating their own, self-serving lables, they will stay down. This rationalizes not working, food stamps, crime, etc.


They keep themselves down!! If they had the will for something better, they can reach out and grab it like the rest of us. I think some of the Mexicans around here speak far better English than the black community.....and they are far more ambitious when it comes to working also!