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#1192: Laleau replies to both DeGraff and Corbett: (fwd)


Dear Bob, Michel, et al --

I haven't been following this debate (again) with very great scrutiny because 
I think we already beat it to death -- but -- for what it's worth, here is 
another opinion.

If Haiti's economy ever reaches the poverty level (instead of "misery"), I 
doubt very much that it will be difficult for majority-class Haitians to 
learn English quickly.  

My reasoning?

(a)  I've lived for some lengths of time in a number of other countries and 
cultures and been exposed to people from many social levels in those 
countries.  I've also been a teacher.  At the risk of generalizing, I think 
there are certain personal and cultural traits that facilitate the learning 
of a second language -- namely, extraversion (willingness to extend oneself 
and engage with the Other), curiosity about what is new, and creativity in 
combining elements at hand to meet perceived needs.  I have never been in a 
country as poor as Haiti, or also encountered such thriving curiosity and 
creativity in another country as I find in Haiti.  I also don't think that 
Haitians will NECESSARILY abandon Kreyol if they learn English.  I think they 
will use both with great facility.  Perhaps a similar example from Haiti's 
culture is the ease with which vodun adapts religious iconography and 
incorporates it into local practices.  

(b)  Although I haven't done strict research on language learning among 
Haitian Kreyol speakers in the US or anywhere else, I have noticed that 
Haitians seem quite adept at learning English once they arrive in the US -- 
my own stepchildren picked it up in a matter of months.  Granted, they were 
hearing it in the home for a couple of years before arriving in the US, but 
they didn't speak it at home until they began going to school in New York 
City, and then, if my memory serves me, they lost NO time in becoming fluent. 
 (On the other hand, one of their older aunts was in the US for 12 years and 
never learned English -- she didn't need or want to -- and perhaps prided 
herself on working for French-speaking people.)

I don't think there are any internal obstacles to the masses of Haitians 
learning English (and Spanish or whatever else) and also keeping Kreyol.  I 
think it is simply an economic question.  If they had systematic access to 
technical education , I also suspect Haitians would become quickly fluent in 
computer languages and develop software and hardware that could rival what 
comes out of Seattle, too.  In other words -- I don't think Haitians are 
limited by "mind-set" to use only what is currently available to them, but 
are rather very gifted and talented people in disguise -- disguised only by 
the color of their skin and their monetary poverty, and by the blinders in 
the eyes of those who don't want to see.  And I think computer education 
should be introduced at a very early age in all schools -- once schools are 
built and staffed.  There is no need for Haiti to re-invent the wheel and 
climb the international economic pyramid painful block by block from the 
bottom, or remain forever at the bottom.  (In fact, if the "pyramid" to which 
Haitian slaves contributed with their labor was ever taken off their backs by 
those who control access to financial resources, we would not have to be 
having discussions about Kreyol/English/French... the Haitian people would 
have already astounded us with their speed and versatility.

Nancy Laleau

Nancy Laleau