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#1007: HUD Pamphlet In Fake Dialect Offends Haitians (fwd)
HUD Pamphlet In Fake Dialect Offends Haitians
Tuesday, November 16, 1999
BY SARAH ROSE//KNIGHT RIDDER NEWS SERVICE
MIAMI -- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
had admirable motives when it ordered pamphlets written in Creole to
inform Haitian Americans about their rights and responsibilities as
residents of federally subsidized housing. Unfortunately, the nearly
5,000 pamphlets approved, published and distributed actually were
written in an imitation Jamaican dialect. The document, titled
"Rezedents Rights and Rispansabilities," was signed by HUD's top
executive, "Sekretary Andrew M. Cuomo fella." "Yuh as a rezedent," said
the publication, "ave di rights ahn di rispansabilities to elp mek yuh
HUD-asisted owzing ah behta owme fi yuh ahn yuh fambily."
While it is unknown whether the document was distributed in South
Florida, many in Miami's Caribbean communities find the printing
reflective of an abiding governmental ignorance. "I'm flabbergasted,"
said Marlon Hill, a Jamaican who is vice president of the Caribbean Bar
Association in Miami. "It's so patronizing. If this is the level of
sensitivity and knowledge we can expect from the government, we have a
problem." Many in the Haitian community worry about future mistakes.
"What hope can we have for a Creole translation of the Census?"
asked Carline Paul, an educational talk-show host on Haitian radio
WLQY (1320 AM) in Miami. The pamphlet was intended to inform residents
in Section 8 HUD housing of their rights, responsibilities and the
resources available from HUD. Translations were printed in nine
languages and Braille. Haitian Creole is based on French and has been
a national language of Haiti since adoption of the 1987 constitution.
Jamaicans, however, read and write standard English. The spoken
Jamaican patois -- the supposed language of the HUD document -- uses
English as its base. The many steps and mistakes prior to publication of
the HUD pamphlet represent a new chapter in government bumbling.
HUD wrote the pamphlet for publication by the Government Printing
Office (GPO), the official printing arm of the U.S. government. The GPO
hired a private contractor in Buffalo, Thorner Press, to translate and
print the pamphlets. Thorner subcontracted for the translations with
Cosmos Translations and Interpretations, a Toronto-based translator
that askedthe question: Haitian or Jamaican?
Although it was the wrong question to ask -- Jamaican patois is not a
written medium -- Thorner Press did not know, and did not consult
the GPO. Cosmos owner Marianos Georgatos called Canada's Department
Citizenship and Immigration to ask which language was more popular.
The Canadian government's answer: Jamaican. Cosmos hired a translator.
Thorner sent proofs to the GPO, which passed them back to HUD.
"To the best of my knowledge this appears to be a Haiti-type Creole.
OK to print, " HUD employee Silvia Millier wrote on the proofs,
according to the GPO. The HUD pamphlet was printed this summer,
and by early fall a copy had found its way to alternative press
columnist Cecil Adams at the Chicago Reader. Subsequently, HUD withdrew
the pamphlet. Only $1,000 was spent on the Creole printing. But HUD
concedes there was never a step in the process in which an external
review was sought. No Creole speaker was asked to look the pamphlet
over. No party involved admits it would do anything differently, if
there is a next time. HUD apologized for any offense, but is still not
calling the episode a mistake.