Thursday, October 24, 2013

Haitian Creole

I had my first exposure to Haitian Creole during my senior year in high school, when Kyle Evans asked me to read a reading in French during her commissioning service for her first term in Haiti. I practiced over and over, worked with my French teacher to make sure that my pronunciation was spot-on, and was generally feeling pretty prepared. I got to church and ten minutes before the service, the priest walks over to me and says “The person who is supposed to read the Creole reading is not here yet. You’ll just read that too.”

Nothing like 10 minutes to prepare a reading in a language you have never seen before to get the blood pumping! Needless to say, I did an abysmal job, but no one really knew that (except for the Creole reader who walked in halfway through my reading!) As she did the second reading, I was like “oh these two languages really are related.”

To understand Creole linguistically, we have to do a little colonial history. Haiti was a French sugar-producing colony. They imported tens of thousands of slaves from all over Africa. The plantation owners spoke French, the slaves spoke a large variety of African dialects, and very few of the slaves could read or write. From the need for a common language, Creole was born.

Many words are similar to the French: for example, “stop” in French is “Arête.” In Creole, it is “rété”. Some words are entirely different and drawn from the African languages: for example “tree” in French is “arbre” in Creole it is “pyebwa”.

Because Creole was only an oral language until fairly recently, it is a dream to learn. Words are pronounced how they are spelled (as opposed to in French where you ignore half of the letters). For example “Good evening” in French is “Bon soir.” In Creole, it is spelled “Bon swa.” In both languages, it is pronounced like the Creole spelling. There are no gendered nouns (the bane of my French learning) and no verb conjugations: you just add a prefix to change the tense of the verb.   
Mèsi anpil!
In other news, I finally have an address! Things have a slightly crazy journey to get to me, so letters and cards only please! 
Julie Burd
C/O Rev. Joseph Kerwin
P.O. Box 407139
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33340-7139

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