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#410: Haitian predujices & the use of language (Vedrine) fwd (fwd)

From: Emmanuel W. Vedrine <evedrine@hotmail.com>

"It is my humble opinion that some haitians are more fluent in
english or french because they are in positions to practice these
languages more than the creole language." (yves pierre-louis)

- Let me add some clarifications to Pierre-Louis' quote - First,
English is not the native language of Haitians (born in Haiti) like
it or not, they all speak Kreyol as native language though many
would claim French (as a trompe-l'oeuil), trying to get some
prestige (one example of Diglossia and Sociolinguistics in Haitian
society). It's a foreign language to them and for those who learned
it as second or third language, their competence or fluency  varies
due some factors such as age, education and certain opportunities
(some of them may have over others). However, I do know certain
Haitians with very high level of education (from Haiti) and who have
been in the US for many years, but who still lack certain communicative 
skills in English (e.g, lexicon, pronunciation..., due
the environment that influences them the most [in terms of language

The young generation of Haitians (e.g, those in their early 20's or
even younger) master the English language faster than Haitians who
come to the US at an older age. Why? R- They have more contacts with
"the American culture" (notice that I put the American culture here
in quotations since some people would argue that such a culture
does not exist, but rather a "sub American cultures"). This
generation has less problem to associate with young Americans their
age (e.g, in high school, college, sports, dating...) whereas older
Haitians have a tendency to socialize (more) with people from their
own community where language factor can play an important role here.

I also want to be specific when mentioning "young generation of
Haitians" (above). First, I refer to youngsters born in Haiti and
who migrated to the US. There is also the "generation one and a
half" (who is a type "young genetion of Haitians) with ethnic
identity problem which in turn creates a self-identity problem. Why?
R- Maybe lack of information from their Haitian parents (who may
know very little of Haitian glory/triumph in history), lack of
knowledge of positivity in the Haitian society, negative role
models. So, psychologically speaking, all this come to have a great
impact on this said generation.

The last one, also a "younger generation of Haitians", are some
Haitian-Americans (born in the U.S) who (may) master the English
language and are proud to be Haitian (either they learn from their
parents about Haiti (mostly the good stuffs), from friends or people
in the community or from book related Haiti/Haitians (dealing with
the positive side of our culture) and right away, they feel proud to
declare that they are Haitians even if some of them them may not be
fluent in Kreyol (the language of their ethnic identity) or never been to 
Haiti, but they don't have any inferiority complex (such as the group 
mentioned by Nekita Lamour in her statement) or the  "generation one and a 
half" to identify themselves as Haitian. And to test that, one can just  go 
to one of these Caribbean carnivals (in Boston, Cambridge, New York..., you 
name it) to see them waiving Dessalines' "bicolore" with pride.

Now, to go back to Mr. Pierre-Louis's statement, I would definitely say he 
is right and below, Nekita Lamour backs up his

"...Regarding speaking French or even English - I have met many
Haitians who address me in English simply to demonstrate a 'social
superiority'.  I have been to numerous conferences held in the
United States where presenters address a Haitian audience in English or 
French as if speaking in Creole would have undermined their
competence in the subject. The message they really want to send is '
I am a fluent English or French speaker.'

...One example that  remains  vivid in my mind occurred in l992  at
City College of New York. It was a conference for Haitian Bilingual
educators regarding teaching  Creole in Bilingual programs. The
entire plenary and the keynote address were in English. When I stood up and 
read a poem that one of my students wrote in Creole, of course, the entire 
room was cold and silent. People were shocked. I don't think they expected 
to hear Creole in a Creole education conference. What made matters worse was 
the content of that eight year old's poem was about Haiti's political 
situation at that time..." (Nekita Lamour)

In her quotes, I would argue that these types of stereotypes are
usually made by the older generation (from the age of 40 and up).
They don't come here at a young age, therefore (most of them)
already mastered the bad habits of our undeveloped bourgeoisie and
the pseudo-intellectuals. It would take some time to clean this type of 
colonial mentality.

I remember when I was researching in Haiti back 1996, I went to the
public library in Port-au-Prince and told the people that I wanted to look 
up some of their documentation on Kreyol. First they look at me from toe to 
head (I had sample clothes on) and I spoke my rural Kreyol. They asked for 
my library card and I told them I wasn't living in Haiti. "Do you have a 
student I.D", one asked. I gave them my
Harvard student I.D. I noticed a drastic change right away and nice
conversation followed.


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