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# 1186: This recurring Bilingualism debate : Antoine comments
From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>
I am not a linguist, nor do I play one in Corbettland, so my take on
this issue will be mercifully brief, and in the form of ten short
1) On document translation: They would not have to be translated if
they were written in Haitian Creole, Haitian, Creole, or Kreyol in
the first place.
2) If you create a body of work in the language of the people, literacy
will follow (not necessarily, of course!) As the Americans say, "Build
it, and they will come." It's an oversimplification, but a useful one.
3) The paucity of texts written in Kreyol (or whatever appellation your
heart desires) is a major stumbling block in the literacy movement.
We need funds to motivate people to write the books, to produce
them in large enough quantities, and to distribute them to the rural
communities. Of course, the full backing and participation of the
Haitian Government is necessary (or should this basic responsibility
be fully privatized for best results? In the end, will Friends of Haiti
or foreign investors teach Haitians how to read and write their own
4) Where will those funds come from? Will they be diverted as usual?
5) Should literacy and malnutrition (and agricultural reform) be seen
strictly as competing economic activities? Certainly (and if that is
Greg's point, I wholeheartedly agree with him) I would not be interested
in holding a book, if my stomach was growling or if all I had the previous
day was water boiled with stones to ease my hunger pangs. I would
also be totally oblivious to mistakes of French written on the board
by a poorly prepared teacher. I would only think of food. Agreed!!
But the more interesting question is: can literacy lead to a technical
and really quite basic but utilitarian education which could help me
participate in improving my chances of survival and the day-to-day
economic activity of MY family?
6) I love the French language. I love Haitian Literature written in
French or perhaps the particularly delectable Haitian French
version. But an honest look at the social history of my country
forces me to admit that the French language has been a malediction
for our country, always has been, and will be so for a very long time.
A sheer malediction. It's not the French language that is at fault,
it is US, Haitians.
7) Would I want to prevent anyone from learning French? Far from
me such thought. This would be sheer hypocrisy. I would defend
the right of any Haitian to learn French or any other language for
ANY REASON WHATSOEVER.
8) Is rural education feasible in the French language? As soon
as Haiti builds a mission to send the Haitian Flag on Jupiter...
or defends the island of Navassa against American invaders!
9) If all the French speakers from France, Belgique, and Quebec,
came to Haiti at once and instructed the Haitian people how to
speak, read and write French, it still would be a colossal failure,
on a social level. The influence of Kreyòl would be too strong.
They would maintain a peasant accent and a peasant way of
speaking, and consequently would be laughed off, laughed at,
and laughed away hysterically by the "good French" speaking
elites. Can you imagine the mass of "dyòlsirèt" (candy mouths)?
As I see it, the upper/middle classes of Haiti need to reinvent
themselves more urgently than the Haitian masses need to be
10) French enriches us culturally, but we need sufficient numbers
of Haitian people to be competent speakers of English and
Spanish as well, so as not to be isolated geopolitically and
economically. The majority of people in Haiti will ALWAYS
speak Kreyol, unless you exterminate them altogether. The
languages complement each other quite nicely. They are not
at war with each other: It is US, Haitian people who have been
at war with each other, God knows since when, and use the
French language as a weapon rather than just another tool of
Guy S. Antoine
Look thru & Imagine!