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#1140: Bilingualism: Chamberlain replies to DeGraff (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
I think DeGraff's extremely strong language speaks for itself. Can we try
to go beyond it?
All I said was:
1. Of course Creole should be prioritized language-wise.
2. But why can't something be done urgently and _first_ about giving
people enough to eat and moving towards a modern country fit for _all_
Haitians to live in with dignity, instead of just the likes of the upper
class (not a million miles from my interlocuteur) who have always had that
privilege and many of whom have chosen to live comfortably abroad.
3. Translating official documents just _shouldn't_ be a priority. Writing
or translating books into Creole about Haitian life and the world in
general (anything but official documents!) and teaching kids to read them
_should_ be. Where is the serious literacy programme 13 years after the
country opened up after the Duvaliers' fall? That is a scandal.
One official document which has been usefully translated into
Creole is the 1987 national constitution. Useful because one might hope
that the Haitian poor, if they could be persuaded to take time off
scratching a living, might learn its contents (through others, since to
read it independently there would have to be a serious literacy programme
first), would angrily ask why little or none of it has been applied, and
maybe decide to march on Port-au-Prince and vigorously remonstrate (to put
it delicately) with the jokers who are pretending to run the country (with
the usual heroic exceptions).
Nothing "ideologically perverse" in any of that.
My "Creole first" phrase was unfortunate. I wasn't objecting at all to
advocating Creole rather than French or whatever. That would be absurd. I
was simply saying that the Creole/French issue is nowhere near as urgent as
the _food_ and general "organisation du pays" issue. The "upper-class
fantasy" bit was, as I'm sure DeGraff understood perfectly well, about
those who nicely debate the issue of language while the country they have
the power and ability (?) to govern goes to ruin. Of course food and
decent living conditions come first, yet many only seem to be concerned
about that in passing.
That's all I meant. Some people here have understood that clearly. Does
the violence of De Graff's reply tell us something else?