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#1139: Haitian youth and language : Barnes comments

From: J Barnes <jbarnes@massed.net>

While you all are still living in the world of your times, I want to tell 
you about the language practices of some young Haitians.  Because I live in
the US and most of my relatives live in Haiti I often host young people
coming here to study and I have worked with young immigrants.  I must tell
you that my college age nieces who went to Lalue (a traditional catholic
school which administers a French test for Kindergarden admission)
correspond with their friends around the world in English.  They do go back
and forth in their conversations between French, Creole, and English.  My
nephew who is in the twelveth grade here spends a couple of hours on the
internet everyday chatting (writing) with his friends around the world in
Creole.  He has gone to a French language school in Petion-Ville that
prepares kids for the French baccalaureat.  It is totally uncool for young
men to communicate in French to people other than their parents.  Here in
the States, I have had students who have never gone to school in French
although they were born in Haiti.  One of them graduated from Brandeis
University and is now a teacher.  She came from a "reform" school (meaning
in Creole) in  a Haitian village, to my class in Cambridge, MA (in Creole
and English) when she was 10 years old.  In high school she chose Japanese
as a second language and received a scholarship from the Japanese government
to spend a summer there.  What about the others who stay in Haiti?  Every
summer we go to visit the artist Ismael because he is an old friend of my
husband's from the 70's at Schweitzer Hospital.  He has 2 teen-age sons.
The father was complaining about one of them.  The walls of the house were
covered with words from Bob Marley songs.  The dad said:  "He doesn't want
to paint these days.  All he wants to do is speak English. "So while we all
spend our time talking endlessly about the language issues, they are
changing right in front of our eyes but we are stuck in our old perceptions.
Our youth is moving on.  A few years ago I was approached by a group of
students of Haitian origins who were Harvard College students. They wanted
Creole classes.  The majority could say a few phrases but the families had
made no effort to help them learn Creole.  Now they wanted to volunteer in
the local Haitian community and they were having a hard time with
communication.  I told them:  every job I have had in my life was related to
my ability to speak, read, and write Creole.