Language Issue: My Perspective (Joseph Augustin)

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Language Issue: My Perspective (Joseph Augustin)

Post by » Wed Mar 09, 2005 11:19 pm

[quote]The Language Issue
Joseph Félix Augustin
November 1998

Though a beautiful language, French has been Haitians' worst enemy since the 1804 revolution. Here are the 10 reasons why Haitians need to learn more Kreyol and English and less French.

1. French splits the Haitian society into 3 categories: Those who speak French, those who do not speak the language but think they do, and those who do not speak but Kreyol.

2. French is used as a social barrier preventing some from gaining access to certain levels of the Haitian society. Those who can speak French well get different treatment than those who can't. If a Haitian walk into an office in Haiti or addresses a particular person of status in French, he or she is more likely to be served than another Haitian who speaks Kreyol.

3. Haitian politicians often use French as a weapon to control the Haitian people. Because the average Haitian does not speak or understand French properly and because French sounds very good when spoken eloquently by some, it is often used to hide the real issues that matter to the Haitian people.

4. Knowing how to speak French is a job title or an accomplishment in Haiti even though you don't know jack. The popular phrase 'neg la konn pale franse' is often uttered by some Haitians after listening to a speech but can't comment on what he or she has just heard. If you were to ask what the speech was about, he or she would reply 'a a a h! neg la pale franse'. As if speaking French is the only thing substantive for a good speech.

5. How many nations in the American continent speak French? Haiti is isolated linguistically thus economically. Most Haitians, who travel overseas, immigrate to the United States where French is not in demand. Furthermore, Haiti has more political and economical relations with the United States than France. Thus, it makes sense to speak English. The people coming from Jamaica or Trinidad do better in the US than Haitians because they don't have to go through all the trouble of learning the English language especially when it comes to pass a test such as TOEFL or TSE (Test of Spoken English) or getting a driver's license.

6. For many young Haitians starting school for the first time, it is a culture shock. All their books are written in French even tough they never speak French at home before. Kreyol should be the starting language of all Haitian youths. English and French should be both learned at an early age as foreign languages with more emphasis on English. Furthermore, Haitian kids are always fascinated about learning English. Why not use that as an opportunity to teach them the language?

7. French is not the language for Haitians to clearly express their ideas. Often Haitians worry more about how to say things in French rather than the content of what they are saying. A simple mistake in French is sometime a life sentence by others who do not even know better.

8. For the Haitian economy to move forward, the needs of the Haitian people and their vision about where they want to go in the future must be clearly articulated and understood. The majority of Haitians don't speak French. They speak Kreyol and so must their leaders.

9. On a daily basis, the languages spoken by most Haitians are Kreyol (for those living in Haiti or abroad), English (for those living in the US) then French (for a small group living in Haiti or in Europe). So, it makes sense to use Kreyol as the principal vehicle for Haitian education, followed by English then French.

10. What Haitians need is what makes sense for the country as a whole not what sounds pretty. French is only spoken by a small percentage of the Haitian population. Furthermore, Haitians have tried French since 1804 as the principal language of the Haitian education system. Look where we are. Let's now give a chance to Kreyol and English, they are languages easy to teach and learn. [/quote]

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