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#416: Haitian Prejudices (#2): Vedrine... (fwd)




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 or how it's being used,  and in 
what context it is 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 of different ages. In 
their mind, they already know which language to use with older Haitians (who 
may or may not 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 bilingual 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, they can somehow speak 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 mind that the 
English language has been fighting the French language in Haiti [this, in a 
way, neutralizes the sociolinguistic conflicts in Haiti]. French does not 
have anymore the prestige it used to have. Most of the firms in Haiti 
require English for business and economic wise whereas French is still there 
at the cultural level (e.g, the 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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