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#1185: Bilingualism: Valdman comments

From: Albert Valdman <valdman@indiana.edu>

I don't want to weigh in on this discussion because Zafè  kabrit se pas
zafè mouton, i.e. foreign linguists should only come in when at a technical
level, for example, when evaluating the Reforme educative model for
bilingual education launched in 1979-80.  They can also provide valuable
empirical data.  It turns out that there is precious little data that can
be invoked that is pertinent to the issue being discussed in this forum.

However, in response to Michel DeGraff's questions: "Are there other
countries where children learn to readf in a language that is not their
mother tongue?"  Indeed there are several, to take a non neocolonialist
country, German-speaking Switzerland.  There children are taught to read
Standard German (which no doubt is no more intelligible to them than is
French for monolingual HC speakers) from the very beginning.  But, there is
a significant difference with traditional education in Haiti: the local
dialect--highly divergent from canton to canton-- is used as a classroom
medium for at least the first four years, then there is a shift to Standard
German.  If that model were properly applied to Haiti, it would be already
a dramatic change.  Note that the Reforme Educative program improves upon
the Swiss model by having children learn to read HC first.  But the
incompetent implementation of the model in most places (poorly trained
teachers, etc.) negated this positive difference.

For people who believe that successful social and political change has
better chances of succeeding when evolutionary rather than revolutionary
proper implementation of the Reforme Educative linked intimately with a
promotional campaign to explain to the monolingual parents that it does not
deny their children access to the language of power--French--well worth
considering.  In this connection bring attention to the proceedings of a
conference we organized at the Insitut Pedagogique National in 1979 to
demonstrate, as the Reforme Educative was bein launchedm that HC had
already crossed the threshold of schools, unofficially, in private sector
schools outside of P-au-P (Reference: Créole et enseignement primaire en
Haiti, Creole Institute, Indiana University)

I do have a questions of Corbetters: In Haiti, does the expression "parler
pointu" refer to French? In France, it is used bo Southern (Méridional)
speakers to refer to Paris French.

Albert Valdman
Albert Valdman
Rudy Professor of French & Italian and Linguistics
Indiana University
Ballantine Hall 604
1020 E. Kirkwood Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405-7103

Phone: 812/ 855-4988
Fax:   812/ 855-2386