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#1067: On Ayitian language reality: reply to DeGraff from Poincy
From: Jean Poincy <email@example.com>
"I have taught linguistic classes to literacy teachers for monolingual
Creole speakers (at the Creole Language Bureau). These teachers work
with monolingual Creolophones to devise better literacy training
techniques and material. I yet have to hear of, or encounter, a
monolingual Creolophone who would prefer to read in French --- a
language that they do not know."
DeGraff loves to teach on Corbettland, but does not want to teach for
too long when his teaching is being debated/challenged. Hence, once
matters become too heated, he closes classes before the end of the term.
I hope he does not do so this time around :-)
I am stating:
An Ayitian living in Ayiti can be either monolingual or bilingual (I
would say half-bilingual because possessing the French language can be a
question). The transit from the former to the latter is done through the
education system. Today both languages are officially imposed nationwide
on entry levels of primary school (and for a few more years), beyond
that point teaching Ayitian loses its purpose.
Logically, whomever goes through this process forcibly becomes
half-bilingual or bilingual (half/bilingual). There is no case where an
Ayitian would stay monolingual forever, unless he stays illiterate
forever. DeGraff's saying contradicts this reality in Ayiti. I would
agree with him, if his studies concerned only and solely illiterate
monolingual Ayitians living in the US; that would be a very biassed
approach anyway. Even that, they would become half/bilingual by learning
English. The constant in the equation is: once a monolingual Ayitian
goes through the alphabetization process, s/he will necessarily becomes
half/bilingual; otherwise, he will never be a candidate for full
integration in the society s/he is evolving in.
At any rate, reaching that stage (becoming half/bilingual in relation
to French) transforms all kids and grown-ups to lovers of the French
language. Knowing how to speak French is an image changing tool for
Ayitians and it opens many doors for them. That's their belief and the
hard reality which DeGraff keeps missing or refusing to acknowledge. It
is a social phenomenon that must be incorporated in the equation. Sadly,
this social interpretation of Ayitian relationship with both languages
has been the ignored missing variable.
The language reality in Ayiti tells you that one is monolingual only
when s/he never attends school. If today there is a seemingly fight to
bring the Ayitian language in the limelight, this is not due to Ayitian
affection to the language. It is due to a campaign being conducted by
"Creolists", disguised politicians, to promote their agenda whether for
votes or financing reasons.
[Sometimes without going to school they do pick up the rudiments of the
French language if they evolve in a family where they speak French, in
the case of some "restaveks" for instance, not that the host family want
them to learn French, but due to their eagerness to speaking the same
language with the others. For that matter the family members address
them in Ayitian while they speak French among themselves. This is quite
complicated, the Ayitian relationship with the languages. How to include
these aspects in linguistic works?]
Allow me to explain to DeGraff what he fails to grasp voluntarily or
not: once an Ayitian steps into a school, s/he is greeted in French,
even if Ayitian teaching will come later. From that point on, the
prospective learner along with his parents, whom don't even know at
times how to read and write, fall inlove with the French language. For
the latter, speaking French means the education. Not addressing them in
French, even though they are unable to reply in French is an insult.
That might even be one reason to pull their children out of that school.
DeGraff, do you know what they say? I'll tell you: they say this school
does not want their children to be educated.
However, they have a very contradictory behavior: in matters relating
to their livelihood they feel it just to be spoken in their native
language, ortherwise they will not place their trust in whomever is
contracting with them. Wait until they learn how to say: "Je" they'll be
quick to be using it instead of using "Mwen" on the very first occasion
which they make sure to create, just for the sake of showing off. ("Je"
in French and "Mwen" in Ayitian stand for "I" in English). When it's a
matter of education, to them French is what education is all about.
Ayitian parents (educated and non-educated ones with some exceptions of
course) don't care much how well their kids know the materials as long
as they know how to speak French. French is a luxury for Ayitians and
you know how mankind feels about luxury.
With great reluctance and a lot of complaints, you will find, the
somewhat educated parents to accept the Ayitian teaching in their
children's school. They have no choice anyway. Don't interprate the
system's imposition of Ayitian teaching in schools as its overwhelming
acceptance by the people. I think that's where DeGraff got confused and
is unable to unthread the real issue. This missing factor in DeGraff's
studies might add flaw to the results.
Let's return to DeGraff's quote above and think about the practicality
of his assessment. To what point would this teaching be plainly Ayitian?
Let's say it is indefinite and serves to integrate the monolingual
Ayitians in the main stream of the Ayitian society. There is no way
these people would be able to make it in the society as it is today,
because French is still prevalent. That would cause some greater damage
by keeping them monolingual. The societal constraints make it impossible
to educate an Ayitian to be just monolingual. Hence, at some point in
the process, they would forcibly become half/bilingual. As I stated
earlier, once they become the latter, they would prefer French because
the society requires French just to show off.
Now, if DeGraff's studies are regarding only monolingual Ayitian in the
US; yes, they would not prefer French, but English would take over. As a
matter of fact, many of them in the US refuse to speak Ayitian with
their kids despite their own difficulty speaking English. I am sure
DeGraff's sample of studies don't touch monolingual Ayitians in France
or in Montreal; otherwise, he would be greatly surprised to find out
that the monolingual Ayitians once becoming half/bilingual they
wholeheartedly embrace French.
We must quit putting faith in incomplete equations in revered
references or biased references. A scientific consultation necessitates
that we question the validity of researches' results. We need not to
take them blindly due to our affinity with the researchers, or because
we feel we are no expert and think linguistic is a complicated matter as
they want us to believe, just to scare us and make us believe every word
they say. Linguistic works on the Ayitian language are too detached from
the people's reality. We need to clear up our objective lenses and look
through Ayitian reality as raw, painful, sorrow, pityful and delicate as
it is. Only then we will get somewhere.
Ayiti has lived, lives and will live