Editorial & Opinion, Featured

“I’m Articulate:” An Intellectual Response to Spoken Word TEDTALK

by Catharine Seabrookes

*NOTE: Jamila Lyiscott, PhD.,  aka, Dr. J, is an aspiring way-maker, a community-engaged scholar, nationally renowned speaker,  and co-founder/co-director of the Center of Racial Justice and Youth Engaged Research. Dr. J is most well known for being featured on TED.com where her video, ‘3 Ways to Speak English,’ has been viewed over 4.8 million times, and for her commissioned TED Talk, ‘2053’ in response to the inauguration of the 45th occupant of the white house.

Jamila Lyiscott’s 2014 spoken-word essay presentation carefully entitled, ‘3 Ways to Speak English’ @https://www.ted.com/talks/jamila_lyiscott_3_ways_to_speak_english?language=en highlights her ability to be ‘trilingual,’ and triggers an automatic definition of a person’s ability to speak three different languages fluently.  Lyiscott’s interpretation, however, delves deeper into a social issue, cultural identity, language variation and social stratification.

Lyiscott’s interpretation, however, delves deeper into a social issue, cultural identity, language variation and social stratification.

Jamilah Lyiscott, photo courtesy of https://www.jamilalyiscott.com/bio

The ‘tri-tongued orator’  showcases three versions of English used in different settings. Her ability to codeswitch in the three settings at school, among her peers and at home, is relatable to people of colour as well as those whose first/primary tongue is different from English.

Lyiscott evaluates the history of the language of people of colour and its transformation throughout history because of influences and disparities. Additionally, she further evaluates the present-day perception of language and its effect on communication.

The term ‘articulate’ serves a symbol in this spoken word presentation and is defined as the ability to speak fluently and coherently. However, when a person uses dialect or slang or dares to divert from English, they are deemed inarticulate. How then could that be applied when the definition does not directly limit it o the conventions of the English language? As Lyiscott effortlessly put it, “But who controls articulation?” Who really does?

As Lyiscott effortlessly put it, “But who controls articulation?” Who really does?

Consequently, the most salient statement, “But you can’t expect me to speak your history wholly, while mines are broken, These words are spoken, By someone who is simply fed up with the Eurocentric ideals of this season”, the speaker expresses the social injustices faced by people of colour and the oppression of their mother tongue.

But you can’t expect me to speak your history wholly, while mines are broken, These words are spoken, By someone who is simply fed up with the Eurocentric ideals of this season”

Unmistakably, the battle of the forcibly dominant language versus the main tongues of other cultures coupled with multiple variations will continue. However, more and more we see people enlightened, willing to embrace their mother tongue in a silent act of defiance a reversal of some sort. The process of communication is complexed, filled with underlying complexities which include various modes of communication.

More and more we see people enlightened, willing to embrace their mother tongue in a silent act of defiance a reversal of some sort.

Conclusively, we should embrace all forms of languages as equal, as Jamila puts it is should be no promotion of ignorance rather a linguistic celebration.


Catharine Seabrookes, a scholar of legal studies re-routed her vigor to the field of education. Currently a sophomore at the UVI, she actively pursues a Bachelor of Education with a minor in communication. She previously earned an Associate Degree in Teacher Education with honors from the University of the West Indies at Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College. As an educator and community activist on the island of Nevis, Catharine believes that a person “should never be too busy to contribute positively or make a difference.”

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