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#411: Haitian Prejudices :Vedrine replies to Hermantin




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


"Well, I never thought that speaking English in a Haitian context was an 
attempt to display any sign of superiority. In Haitian communities where 
French is still used to maintain social space and class identity, English 
somehow becomes the great equalizer.  As Gina has so eloquently pointed out 
in "Classifying the Dyas" Haitians who cannot speak French or whose Creole 
is from the "wrong side of the tracks" are treated as uneducated and 
ignorant.  The ability to speak English relieves the speaker of the 
awkwardness of being identified as either bourgeois or working class and 
somehow levels the playing field." (leonie hermant)


- It would say it depends how one uses it , how it's being used,  and in  
what context it's used; the same thing with French. The young generation of 
Haitians (in the US) is a good example if we could videotape them or record 
their conversation when interacting with Haitians different ages. In their 
mind, they already know which language to use with older Haitians (who may 
not speak English or speak English) however, when their speech is directed 
to peers their age, English would be the dominant language, including 
code-switching (if they are true bilingual [English - Kreyol]. It's 
something that happens spontaneously (the code-switching process) whether 
with young Haitians (in the U.S) who are bilinguals or with older Haitians 
(who are French - Kreyol bilingual)

In Hermant's quote:

"The ability to speak English relieves the speaker of the awkwardness of 
being identified as either bourgeois or working class and somehow levels the 
playing field."

I would say it's there (in the US and somehow, dispite the different 
educational level of Haitians in the US, the speak some English [standard or 
broken]) but, I don't see it as strong as it is in Haiti (for a Haitian who 
is fluent in French and English). Also, keep in that the English language 
has been fighting the French language in Haiti [this kind of neutralize the 
sociolinguisctic coflicts in Haiti]. French does not have anymore the 
prestige it used to have. Most of the firm in Haiti require English for 
business and economic wise whereas French does have that power though it's 
still there at the cultural level (e.g, use of French by members of the 
bourgeoisie, by Haitian intellectuals in some social gathering).  What else? 
US $ from the diaspora; does this tell us anything about the place of 
English in Haiti?  And maybe, some critics may add to that: "le monde bouge 
en anglais dans le cadre de la mondialisation". And constantly, Kreyol is 
rising (e.g the media, "jounal pale" (news from radio, national Television 
in Kreyol, "radyo dyl", official speech in Kreyol; The whole ceremony of 
Aristide's wedding was conducted in Kreyol. Aristide spoke Kreyol at UN, he 
and Preval swore in (for the first time)  in the vernacular language. What 
does all of this tell us? A question we have to answer concerning "language 
change in Haiti" in the last decade of the 20th century.


"Verite se lwil, l ap toujou ret sou dlo"

E.W.Vedrine


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