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#1139: Bilingualism: Durran replies to Chamberlain

From: Mary Durran <mdurran@colba.net>

I quite agree with Greg Chamberlain on this.  While in the long term
Haitians might want to work to have Creole established as the sole official
language of Haiti, we have to face that in the short term, practically all
the opportunities are available only to those who speak French. 

What right do we, professionals, who have opportunities available to us way
beyond the reach of a poor Haitian, have to tell Haitian peasants that in
order to promote the long-term aim of the advancement of Creole, they must
boycott French, which might in the short term bring them more
opportunities?  This is something
that only monolingual Haitians living in poverty can decide for themselves
- to sacrifice personal advancement to the goal of getting rid of a system
that maintains the language of the colonizers as the dominant one, or to
learn French and open up opportunities which may keep them and their
families from destitution? 

Of course, the acceptance of Creole as the sole official language of the
Haitian people is something that we all, as Haiti-philes, should aspire to
as a long term goal for Haiti.  But we have to respect that everyone makes
their choices about whether or whether not to act for reasons determined by
their personal situations.  As Greg says, 'sak vid pa kanpe'  - ie those
whose stomachs are not full do not have the wealth of options open to them
that we have, and we can't preach to them about the sacrifices we think
they should make.  The decision about whether or not to boycott French and
learn only Creole should be taken by those most affected by it - the poor
majority of Haitian peasants and urban dwellers. 

Mary Durran