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#1290: On the economic link of language and education : Poincy comments
From: Jean Poincy <email@example.com>
Here, I am forced to reflect on the economic link of
language/education, since no linguist seems to be willing to do so.
Please forgive me for going to the bottom of things. To me it's the only
way one can really grasp the importance of what being said. What is
really the purpose of a language? Well the quickest answer that comes to
mind is to communicate.
For human communication, we find two basic forms: "oral communication"
and "written communication". Wouldn't one form suffice instead of two?
As things evolve and mankind begins to accumulate knowledge or the "know
how", the necessity to preserve and transmit knowledge for a future use
becomes the utmost thing to do. Because "oral communication" was not
suitable to record knowledge, "written communication" had to be
Indeed the sole purpose of "written communication" is to convey or
record knowledge, which are to stay and be transmitted. Hence, recording
"oral communication" is the essence of "written communication" or
To record knowledge codes are necessary, but these codes are merely a
phonetic representation of the "oral communication" by which knowledge
was being transmitted. Grouping all the codes in a structured format
engraves in sentences sound of words and abstract ideas for life. Now
being engaged in a communication process necessitates that the parties
recognize, understand these codes and are capable of reproducing them as
well. To do so some learning of these codes ought to take place. Hence,
this gave birth to education, formal education, as we comprehend it.
For the simple fact that "written communication" is to record
knowledge, there must be knowledge to record in the first place. Where
there is no knowledge to record, this form of communication is useless.
Where then would this knowledge come from to record? All knowledge is
acquired from our thinking and mostly from our experience in our daily
In our daily activities we learn how to do things by learning from our
mistakes and by trial and error. Since they come that way, the necessity
to record them for future use or to transmit them so it won't be
forgotten becomes a priority. It provides a means also to stock
knowledge or ways of doing things to survive in our environment.
Survival means monitoring one's hunger and security. The former makes it
a pure economic matter.
Everything revolves around this economic factor. To survive in primitive
societies men somehow had to learn how to make good use of nature.
Discounting hunting and pastoral activities, agriculture has been the
first important step toward such an aim, and it remains so until today.
Men had to work the land and find better ways or techniques to do such
and such. These were knowledge to preserve for future use.
Mankind has come a long way to recognize the necessity of recording
these new knowledge and one best way is to come up with codes to
represent their spoken language from which, what one will say will mean
the same when it is put into codes.
Now any future generation that comes will find a stockpile of knowledge
that they must learn. If such a generation ought to be useful for its
community, it must learn how to use the knowledge and to improve it.
Acquiring the knowledge is by knowing the codes (understand the abstract
ideas behind the preserved knowledge is a different matter). For our
purpose, we will stick to the idea that these codes must be learned and
We say that doing something for survival is the necessary fertilizer to
the existence of "written language" so that it be preserved and
transmitted at a later date. Without this circumstance it would not be
in existence. The activity to be conducted for survival is plainly
I build this background to establish the vital link between the
economic means for survival and the use of language. This will allow us
to determine the importance of the language in the struggle that Ayiti
is in today. No one will deny that the main problem of Ayiti is hunger.
Alone, it is sufficient to glue the Ayitian people on the land to find
an easy means to respond to its basic needs, just as it was in primitive
societies. Indeed, the nature of things in Ayiti (economically speaking)
is no different from that of primitive societies.
There is a fertile ground for knowledge development in Ayiti. Because
the country is not producing or the people are not economically active
(I consider economically active those engage in the process of
transforming what nature put at their disposal to survive, overcome
hunger), the chance for it to accumulate knowledge, appropriate
knowledge is very slim, therefore it must constantly rely on imported
knowledge which is not totally wrong (some imported knowledge are
important for the development of local knowledge).
Unfortunately, Ayiti is not taking advantage of the opportunity, which
is the absence of modernity in its structure and the system as a whole.
The absence of production, economic activities, does not put the people
in situation where they can acquire or create knowledge. As stated
earlier, where there is no knowledge to acquire from economic
activities, the existence of a "written language" is meaningless. That
is the sole reason why the people are illiterate and will remain so.
This logic points out that any effort made toward changing the situation
in the absence of economic activities will be fruitless.
Let me restate the logic: if economic activities are necessary to
build stock of knowledge and "written language" draws its essence from
the existence of latter, any absence of economic activities will
automatically result in the absence of knowledge and a "written
language". It is a natural process that one can not circumvent.
Ayiti still has its chance to have a sound "written language" that
would come easily without having to be made forcefully by directly
deforming French words to fit Ayitian speech pattern. That's treachery.
This is what I notice among many writers writing in Ayitian. The country
is at a stage where a modern system can be built from scratch provided
that it follows an evolutionary approach.
If in tune with their environment the illiterate monolingual people
will be the one creating the foundation for knowledge specific to Ayiti;
hence for a pure "written language". This is the first phase where
through experience, learning by doing, they will begin to accumulate
knowledge at which stage the need to record them will be felt, so will
be the need for education, understanding and acquisition of that
Any attempt to try to go the opposite way because we want all Ayitians
to be literate we will fall on our nose. Yes, one can finally educate
all the people by teaching them how to read and write. But, what it will
serve them if it can not integrate such an education in the process of
acquiring their economic means to survive?
Does that mean all categories in the population should be viewed as not
having the need for education? It is a NO. During the first phase any
educational program should mainly focussed on forming the next
generations to be ready for the knowledge being accumulated by their big
brothers and parents, illiterate of course.
My logic tells me that any alphabetization/educational program to be
done in any language for that matter will be an economic failure, if it
is conceived to bring adults (from age 16 and up) to a level above
rudimentary knowledge. This is not to say that these adults are
incapable of learning.
Considering that the development process is fully underway, this group
would be much useful spending time in the transformation (by which I
mean production, economic activities) and construction phase of the
country. This is then they will observe better their environment and be
in tune with it, and this is the only time they can give birth to knew
knowledge. In that phase all that is necessary is sufficient knowledge
to be operational in a developing society. Otherwise, Ayiti will
continue to suffer great economic consequences.
If we accept that education, beside rudimentary education, is not very
important at the early stage of Ayiti's economic development, it follows
that the tools necessary to promote education is not of great need
neither. Hence, very little resources or none can be devoted to it.
We have to look at what stage things are to be done in Ayiti to achieve
well-being for the people. Any program or project that is being
implemented at the wrong stage can derail any well thought development
program in Ayiti. Since, we have to take things as a whole we can't
isolate any component, because of the interrelation that exists among
Each part has its repercussion on another and can create a domino
effect in a good way or in a bad way; but the first and most important
part must be touched first to have the good effect. The point at which
things are, meaning severe financial constraints, RESOLVING HUNGER, is
that first and most important point.
As things go the way expected, means and ways will be learned and
recorded. That means a knowledge accumulation will begin and require
preservation. Such preservation requires that it be recorded. They must
be learned and known. People that are using them must know them and
learn them. At this point begins phase two and it will deal with
education for the entire population, by then two to three well educated
generations will be at their maturity stage to handle things better.
Ayiti has lived, lives and will live