Haitian Creole

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Haitian Creole is the official language of Haiti.

Background

All Haitian children speak Haitian Creole, also called Kreyòl. About 90% of Haitians can only speak Kreyòl, with French being the common second language among the remaining 10%. Only about half of Haitians are literate (52.9%) [1] and under a third (30%) reach the sixth grade. Complicating matters, there are three separate dialects of Kreyòl spoken in the northern, center, and southern areas [2].

Fluency and literacy in French is considered a mark of education and social class and provides greater access to higher education and employment. This is a continuing controversy, according to the Cultural Orientation Resource Center. Even with the education reforms of 1978, controversy over use of Creole in schools continues, and some Haitian emigrants rally against bilingual education in their new schools.

Since 1978, Haitian Creole has had an official spelling and the national education reform has mandated the use of Haitian Creole in elementary grades. Many Haitian families trust tradition and continue to want French books, although educators know that in order to read a child must understand the language. There are many texts and textbooks written in Haitian Creole, but most bookstores in Haiti carry only French books. Since the 6th grade national test requires a Creole text, all schools teach reading and writing of Creole, even when French dominates instruction time. In the majority of schools, even though the books are in French, the teachers themselves are not fluent in French. Since 80% of schools in Haiti are own and run by private individuals and entities, enforcing national reform efforts is quasi impossible. (sources needed)

Additional Language Information and Opinions

Additional names for Haitian Creole include Haitian Creole French or just Creole in English; Kreyòl or Ayisyen in Kreyòl; and Créole Haïtien in French. A creole is usually the descendant of a bilingual or multilingual pidgin, which is usually a mixture of words from the source languages with minimal, irregular grammar. Creoles consistently develop regular and very similar grammars in the second or third generation of speakers removed from the influence of source language speakers.

According to sources cited at Ethnologue, Kreyol Aiysyen (sic) shows influences from Wolof, Fon, and Éwé. In 1961 it was granted legal and educational status in Haiti. It has a growing literature, including poetry, but lower social status than Standard French.

Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners in Health (Zanmi LaSanté), in addition to organizing health care for a million of the poorest Haitians, has written extensively about the history and development needs of Haiti, and was the subject of a book by Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Haitian Creole is a very dynamic language which is constantly creating new words to adapt to the conjectures of the moments. The Haitian people are known for their extensive oral traditions and oral literature. Knowledge is most often transmitted orally, therefore individual's memories are most adapted to oral learning. For example, while many Americans no longer memorize any phone numbers, Haitians who use phone keep friends and family phone lists in their brain. This is just one example of how people practice memorizing information. Haitian spend a lot of time telling stories, discussing issues, and discussing life. People in Haiti use extensive repertoire of proverbs as cognitive tools to summarize the reasons for actions and events.

The Haitian community is a global community. Because of political persecution and economic hardship, Haitian people have emigrated and settled in the United States, Canada, and several Caribbean islands and nations. They constitute a large portion of the workforce in the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas. There are also many Haitians in France, the French West Indies, and French Guayana. Most Diaspora Haitian keep in touch with relatives in Haiti and provide financial support to some of their relatives. Remittances are the most significant contributor of foreign currency to the Haitian economy, and amount to more than a billion dollars a year. In order to keep communication around the world Haitians use cassette recordings and cellular telephone. The need for cheap communication has brought some internet innovations such as internet phones very quickly to Haiti. Although most Haitians do not own PC's, there are Cybercafés in many towns, where people go to write emails to relatives, surf the internet, and make phone calls. Free internet access is rare but is available in many of the 55 libraries funded by FOKAL, the Haiti branch of the Soros foundation

Haitian Creole Source Material Links

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