On using Kreyòl in Windows on Haiti

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Dr Roger Malebranche

Post by Dr Roger Malebranche » Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:52 am

Hi Jaf :
There are many of us, ANCIENT HAITIANS, who love the country very much but have problems reading long KREYOL letters. I know I am not the only one. Haitians who grew up in the 40s, 50s and 60s can struggle and understand a short message in Kreyol but have difficulties navigating through a long one. We speak Kreyol but we have a hell of a time reading it. We were never taught that skill. There are also many Haitians/ Americans who understand Kreyol but do not speak or read it. ( Children of Haitians, born and raised in the USA and other countries as an exemple ). There is a big pool of devoted AYITI lovers out there and you can keep connected to them if they can read and understand the WOH messages. Is there a way to create a computer program that would do that ? I am afraid if you don't, people, ( even hard core AYITI lovers ), will lose interest in WOH and migrate to other more all embracing sites. I know you are not trying to create an exclusive and narrow group of Haitians but in the end it will work that way. Some of us are too old to start a new study that we won't be using everyday. Many have already too much on their plate. A few have poor vision or do not have the time etc... In my case things would be easier if I lived in Haiti or was surrounded by Haitians.
Comments please.
Be well and keep fighting for Haiti my young Brother.
Roger.

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Post by Guysanto » Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:16 am

[quote]...people, ( even hard core AYITI lovers ), will lose interest in WOH and migrate to other more all embracing sites. I know you are not trying to create an exclusive and narrow group of Haitians but in the end it will work that way.[/quote]

Roger, aren't you in fact saying that we should refrain from using Haitian Creole on the site (most of it is written in English, anyhow!!) ?

Though English is not the national language of Haiti and not even one of its two official languages, I made a judgment call ten years ago not to use French as the main language of the site, not to use Haitian Creole (which I did not know how to write properly either), but to use the language most accessible to Haitians in the North American Diaspora, and to most people interested in Haiti matters throughout the world. That being acknowledged, Windows on Haiti never intended to close its windows entirely to the written expression of the language spoken virtually by all Haitians who were born in Haiti, and by 10 million Haitians overall in the world. Step by step, I learned (many of us learned together, right here on this site) to increase our communication abilities from spoken to written Kreyòl, and to enrich our cultural bonds in the process. We have never stopped using English however, as the main language of the site. Many of the historical documents and some of the posts are written in French as well, though our readership has not expressed much interest in pursuing communications in that language.

On this forum, almost everyone, including Jafrikayiti, has mostly written in English. Again, I suspect that the reason for that is that English is the most widely used language on the Net, its "de facto" standard language.

Now, should we be faulted for expressing ourselves on occasion in our native tongue? Should our readers punish Windows on Haiti by quitting it to embrace "more all embracing sites" ? Let me know what sites those are anyway, because if they are what you say they are, I would be more than happy to promote them via the pages of Windows on Haiti !!

You say that you were not taught to write Kreyòl in Haiti. I know. Though I am younger than you, I am no spring chicken either. I was never taught to read and write Kreyòl in Haiti either. I had to learn it by reading some small books and articles on my own at first, and then by way of a "gran konbit" right here on the pages of Windows on Haiti, by enlisting the assistance (and argumentation) of the Diaspora's most renowned and progressive linguists. Those lessons and discussions are still available, if one has the slightest interest in accessing them.

But I do understand. At this stage in your life, you are not interested in taking the time and making the not insignificant effort to learn and read and write the language you have heard around you from the moment you were born. I do understand. It's a huge personal commitment that you do not feel up to, because it might be far easier to skip the Kreyòl posts or navigate elsewhere. I would rather not lose you. So, I would suggest that you ask Jafrikayiti for instance to explain what he means when he writes something in Kreyòl. I think that he would be willing to accommodate you, just as I am willing to enlighten everyone I know about Haitian issues, no matter the language barriers. Those of us who can do more have taken the responsibility to reach out to more. However, I do not think it is fair to fault us for making an effort (even if only occasionally) to keep alive the written expression of our Mother language. It is a path to Haitian unity. It is a step in the right direction.

Guy

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Post by Serge » Wed Apr 02, 2008 11:51 am

Guy,

I just read your message and I am making a quick comment. I should be writing this in Kreyòl, but for the sake of quick reading by Roger, I will continue in English.

The problem that Roger and so many other Haitians have is understandable. This is the result of he social and linguistic apartheid that took place in Haiti for 200 years and Kreyòl was most victimized. We are paying for that now.

But, at the risk of sounding harsh, rigid, intransigent (or anything you might add), I will say to Roger and many others that it is never too late to learn. When I think that, as I speak, there are thousands of other Haitians, young, old, learning how to write and read in Kreyòl. With the literacy program going on right now in Haiti, the attendance rate in classes is between 84 and 90%! This is quite a feat and is testimony of the commitment of people throughout the territory to become literate. Here in this country, many old people go back to school at a very advanced age, when they have been functionally illiterate most of their lives.

Our linguistic situation has become what it is because of a lack of vision of our leaders, of our elite, because of the neglect or ignorance on their part, and that is something that is going to take some time to remedy. Like you, I learned to read and write Kreyòl by myself, and we are a whole generation in that situation. So, you see how many generations before us who did not even have the material to remedy this situation. But fortunately, we have the tools now. You used them, I used them and all of us, if we want, we can use them. I do not even even say "if we can", I say if we want, because unlike old times, if we wanted, we would not have been able to do anything, because we would not have found the tools. That problem is solved now. It is just a matter of will and of purpose. We all have a leg up, because we already know how to read and write and we already speak the language. It is almost like starting college and having 3 years of credit already!

While I understand Roger's problem very well, - he is not the only one in this situation anyway, too many of us are - I believe that we owe it to the younger generation not to perpetuate the prejudices against Kreyòl which we inherited from the previous generations.

So I say to Roger not to be too apprehensive about the whole thing. Actually, it may be a fun thing to do, a project. I think your problem may be more psychological than anything - not that I am analyzing you, by the way. The problem is while we are here, abroad, discussing theses issues, finding ways to avoid learning to read and write the language, inside Haiti, there is a dynamic process of literacy going on, with learning centers set up everywhere in the territory, people eager to learn, thanks to a dynamic Education Secretary, and the implementation of the literacy program set up by the Cuban Government and translated into Kreyòl: Wi mwen kapab! This same program made wonders in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Things are on schedule also in Haiti with thousands and thousands already benefiting .

Kididonk, Roger, li pa janm twò ta. Malgre tout fikilte, nou kapab, ou kapab! Zafè laj la pa vle di anyen!


Serge

Dr Roger Malebranche

Post by Dr Roger Malebranche » Wed Apr 02, 2008 2:04 pm

Hi Guy, Jaf, Serge

This subject should be looked at from all aspects, tossing aside pre-conceived ideas and prejudices. I love playing the Devil's advocate.

Many of our citizens find themselves obliged to leave Haiti for other lands in order to secure a better live for their children and themselves. They have to learn the language of their new home, and in one or two generations that language becomes the permanent one for their descendants. Right ? How many Black American have you met who can speak or even remember Swahili. Yoruba, Mandika, Dioula etc... ?

We should be looking at the reality of the modern world, and while encouraging the SPEAKING of Kreyol we should be pushing scholastic READING and WRITING programs of English, Spanish, French etc...

While Kreyol is our mother tongue and has been ostracized by the elite of Haiti for two hundred plus years it's not going to mean a lot on the CV or the passport of today's Haitian seeking residence or employment in another country. We are just creating an elitism of another kind. There are the in Haitians who can read and write Kreyol and there are the outs (people like me and other ANTIQUE Haitians of my vintage) who speak Kreyol well enough but don't have the motivation or facilities to read and write it.

We are busily escaping the French elitism circle while entering full speed ahead into the English orbit. Chinese anyone?

I cannot wait to be tarred and feathered.

Time for a visit, Fellows. Spring is around the corner.

Roger

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:23 pm

There is an angle to the issue:
[quote]...Haitians who grew up in the 40s, 50s and 60s can struggle and understand a short message in Kreyol but have difficulties navigating through a long one...[/quote]
Roger's "problem" is common and WOH can help by keeping the messages short. Regardless of language a long message is difficult to absorb for me and many others, unless it's broken into relatively small segments. We have learned to read and write both French and English so our brain can navigate through such texts much easily. Let me give you one example: I have in front of me a french bible (Louis Segond) and one in Ayisyen. Even when I know the location of the text I am looking for, I can find it much faster in the french one.

I remember when I first joined WOH a few years ago my kreyòl texts had some grammar issues. I made the effort to adjust and I guess I am feeling more comfortable today. Let's keep the texts short and simple.

gelin

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Post by jafrikayiti » Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:21 pm

Ok, I will try to be brief :o)

1) When a fews years ago, I joined elders within REKA (Rezo Entènèt Kreyolis Ayisyen) - http://www.kreyol.org - I was alerted to the fact that the quantity of quality texts available in Haitian Kreyol, on various subjects is limited. This was often cited as an impediment for those who would like to learn how to read and write Kreyol. I decided to make my contribution to answer this challenge.

2) As someone who hosts radio shows, I am always mindful that Haitians- whether in Haiti or in the diaspora- use Kreyol as our primary means of communication. And, often, text written in foreign language is translated into Kreyol to be read on the air. I realized how important this effort was when in 1999 I started the radio series GRIYO which would later transform into the Lafimen: Listwa Pèp Ayisyen Depi nan Ginen series on Haitian History. When I started some asked me why I bothered to translate into Kreyol the research information I found in French or English. However, following the first Lafimen CD, I was glad to receive the opposite criticism. I.e. I was told there were too many direct citations of French text that a unilingual person listening to Lafimen would miss. So I corrected this in CD#2&3.

3) As indicated by Guy, the vast majority of my texts on AnnPale are in English. Most of them are brief (even to Gélin's content). However, there are also texts that I write more like essays or short articles (with references) on a specific topic. These are not destined only for the forum, although ANNPALE is almost always, the first place where I post new texts that I write (less so lately, because of the inability to edit in real time).

4) There are over 10 million people who speak Kreyol fluently. Among them, several million are unilingual. They deserve to have information made available to them in their own language. The Christian churches understood this long ago...that's why the Bible is one of the first full length texts made available in Haitian Kreyol. Unfortunately, this has also been used as a tool of zombification of a colonized people. I hope, on my end, to produce revolutionary literature that can help counter the damage already done. So, Viv Bondye Aba Relijyon (2000), Lafimen CD1(2003), Lafimen CD 2&3 (2006) and a host of texts that I have written in Kreyol are meant for all people who understand Haitian Kreyol - but my primary target is Haitian....whether they read the text or listen to it being read to them, I don't care. The important thing to me is that the wisdom of Cheick Anta Diop, of Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Anténor Firmin etc... no longer gets imprisoned in the English and French ghettos that are inaccessible to most of my people. Hopefully, before long, there will be Africans producing revolutionary - liberating - literature in Kiswahili, Lingala, Wolof, Eve, Fongbe..... And, i couldn't care less, how many wish these documents where available in Africaneer, Dutch, English, French or German. My primary target for text I write in Kreyol is Kreyol speaking.

5) Mindful of Gélin's admonition, I...

Jaf ;o)

Dr Roger Malebranche

Post by Dr Roger Malebranche » Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:22 pm

Hi Gelin :
I appreciated your comment very much.
And there is also the matter of being pragmatic. I have been reading for all of my life and reading is one of my favorite pastimes. I can go through a French, Spanish, English book in no time at all, without having to pull out any of the few gray hairs I have left. Upon encouragement from the usual suspects ( Guy, Jaf, Serge, Leonel, professor pistache and others ) I have been giving Kreyol reading a strong try. ALAS ! Reading in Kreyol anything longer than a page is cumbersome and I am so focused on deciphering the Kreyol words that I miss the meaning of the sentence. If I were as young as Guy and the others I would of course persevere, in the hope of becoming a worthier Haitian, but I don't have oodles of years left. I have worked and studied hard all my life. Time for a little R and R.
Right ? Why make life difficult when it should be easy ?
Roger.

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Post by Serge » Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:39 pm

Gentlemen,

I will be very brief this time, even more brief than Gelin.

Refering to the growing legitimacy and importance of Haitian Kreyòl, in my previous post, I was suggesting that abroad, Kreyòl is alive and growing in all quarters. Well, I was listening to the news this afternoon from Haiti. The new Ambassador from CARICOM has just arrived in Haiti (some among you may remember that CARICOM recenlty opened an office in Haiti.

Well, the new Ambassador (I do not remember his name), upon his arrival, talked to the Haitian press....in fluent kreyòl. And he did not learn it in Haitian schools. He spoke with no hesitation, at ease, talking about issues of trade, CARICOM's position and the need for more exchange between Haiti and CARICOM.

Translation: from now on, more and more, foreign ambassadors coming to Haiti know they have to learn Kreyòl, which give even more legitimacy to the language.

Serge

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:38 pm

[quote]4) There are over 10 million people who speak Kreyol fluently. Among them, several million are unilingual. They deserve to have information made available to them in their own language. The Christian churches understood this long ago...that's why the Bible is one of the first full length texts made available in Haitian Kreyol...[/quote]
That's a plus. Long ago in Europe the King James Version of the Bible helped standardize the English language. In our case, I was pleased to see some spelling changes in the new version of the Haitian Bible. That will go a long way in helping many realize and accept the fact that our common language can only go up. The Haitian Revolution has a linguistic aspect also...

gelin

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Post by Guysanto » Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:04 pm

We may not have addressed adequately in this thread the core of Roger's argumentation: [quote]while encouraging the SPEAKING of Kreyol we should be pushing scholastic READING and WRITING programs of English, Spanish, French etc...[/quote]
So it is not the SPEAKING of our national language Roger appears to devalue (in fact, he wants to encourage it... though I am not sure what HIS reasons are), it is the WRITING of it that he would prefer that we dispense with. At first, I thought that this was for strictly personal reasons (like trying to teach new tricks to an old dog), but in his next to last post, Roger comes up with new argumentation that is intended to demonstrate the futility of efforts to develop a sound body of Creole Literacy (what I would describe as a Literacy of natural Haitian expression).

I could devote pages to counter that argumentation, but since, for the time being everyone wants to follow Gelin's admonition, I will not revisit now the dozens of pages of solid arguments that have already been presented a few years ago on Ann Pale in favor of the development of a natural language literacy for the well-being of Haitians and for boosting Haiti's economic development which necessitates a high level of developmental psychology at the national level.

Others may jump in to restart the discussion, but I will simply restate my own convictions (based on the research of prominent linguists, educators, and social behaviorists):
  • learning in the language that is most natural to you [that is the language spoken everyday with your parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, your entire social support network] tends to develop your understanding of your natural environment much faster -- because you are not forcing learning by rote (aprann pa kè);[/*:m]
  • once you have a more solid understanding of what you have learned, because you learned it using words that you mastered and not quasi-foreign words that many of us repeated like jako repèt, you can then much more easily transfer that knowledge to any language that you subsequently learn;[/*:m]
  • the learning of any language is ultimately a good thing, and one of the most remarkable achievements of the human brain;[/*:m]
  • finally, it is easier to learn a second language when you have sufficiently mastered a first (ideally, your natural language); a third, when you have a second; and so on and so forth.[/*:m]
Roger, your inverse elitism arguments simply do not stand up under scrutiny, that is sheer speculation on your part. Natural Haitian language literacy had not, until now, been seriously tried in two centuries of so-called independence. As Haitian nationals, we ought to try a different tack, unless we want to live in a subordinate world forever.

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Post by Leoneljb » Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:36 pm

Bon, mwen konprann pwoblèm Dòk la. Li enpresyone lè li wè m'ap taye banda an kreyòl.

Men, fòk mwen di'w Dòk, se pa konsa non mwen vinn youn elèv k'ap pede premye nan klas kreyòl nan WOH. Sa te mande anpil etid. Apre anpil teke tèt nan men Guy ak Serge, mwen sètoblije vinn fò.

Fòm di'w tou ke se Michel ki konn dènye nan klas la. Gelin avan dènye (se jwe m'ap jwe tande).

Antouka Dòk, li pa pi difisil ke sa. Jis pa pè fè erè. Gen anpil moun ki kapab ede'w nan WOH.

I am very grateful. For, I can more or less read kreyòl now. Lontan m'te prèt pou'm te met van nan vwal mwen lè mwen wè kreyòl ekri.

Pran Kouraj, Frè. Jou va jou vyen!

Leonel

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Post by Serge » Sat Apr 05, 2008 9:58 am

Leonel,

Se ekzakteman sa Guy mwenm menm ak anpil lòt kon di. Se pa pou pè fè erè lè wap koumanse. Jan lòt la te kon di : lerè è dan labdomen de lòm!!!

Se pa sa, kouman w ye? Mwen swete na wè nan 19 avril la nan Lataye, pa vre?

Serge

Dr Roger Malebranche

Post by Dr Roger Malebranche » Sun Apr 06, 2008 1:34 pm

Good morning, Haitian Brothers and Sisters :

I have been following "WOH" for a while now and I have formed opinions about those members who give it life, fire and keep it successful. My hat off to them. We need them.

From my experiences and interchanges with that illustrious group I have formed the following opinions. Perhaps I am wrong. If so I apologize and expect to be righted.

1) There is Gelin. He is the scientific one. He has a soft heart and understands the human frailties. He is willing to consider both sides of the equation. He knows we don't have all the answers. He is a proud Haitian. I love him for having taken the gauntlet on the AIDS problem and Haiti.

2) Guy is the CEO, the ring leader. He is the older professor, dogmatic, entrenched in his side of the argument. He is the "you are with me or you are against me type". He has the books' knowledge, the convincing data. Compromising is a dirty word for Guy. He is a proud Haitian.

3) Jaf is the idealistic young Jedi. He reminds me of the way I was 50 years ago when I turned down a prestigious residency in Port-au-Prince after Medical school graduation (I was the laureate of my year) and decided instead to spend 2 years in the South giving care to my doctorless brothers and sisters. Those are the best years of my life. Jaf is passionate in his beliefs. He is a proud Haitian.

4) Leonel has understanding and compassion. He has come to realize, just like me, that the world is not black or white. There are shades of grey, purple, ochre, turquoise etc... I don't know how old he is but he is not quick to condemn. He knows that we don't hold a key to ultimate knowledge. He listens. He is a proud Haitian.

5) Serge is on the same wavelength. He is also willing to make concessions and look at the other person's point of view. He knows that we are not perfect and never will be. He encourages. He is not into casting blame nor demonizing. He is a proud Haitian.

I also am a proud Haitian but over the years my ways of thinking have been burnished by practical knowledge and direct experiences. It is easy to get steamed up about the importance of Kreyol, injustice from the white world (real and perceived), the Haitian elite and the harm they have done to the Motherland etc...

Forget the unsuccessful past. Forget what other people do or have done to harm and divide us. What I want for Haiti and Haitians is plain but not simple: Food for the hungry. Care for the sick. Eradication of SIDA and infantile mortality. Lessening of the divisive behavior between our politicians and their need to focus on the real problems of the country... instead of personal attacks, witch hunts and vendettas.

More security, meaning less killings, less kidnappings. Education for the poor and the children of the poor, like in Cuba, with eradication of our sinful analphabetisation. I don't care whether it is in Kreyol, French, English, Spanish, Chinese... it does not matter as long as it becomes a reality. Decentralisation of Port-au-Prince with a revival of the provinces and Haitian agriculture. Development of a touristic industry appealing both to foreigners and the Haitian diaspora. AND ABOVE ALL a realization that we are ALL Haitians, a proud heritage, whether we are black, light colored, poor, rich, living in Haiti, Diaspora, reading and writing Kreyol, not reading and writing Kreyol, young, old, professional, artisan etc... FOR ONCE IN OUR 200 YEARS OF EXISTENCE LET'S JOIN IN HARMONY AND SPUR THE LAND FORWARD AT LAST. Then I will die happy. I cannot in my heart find an apology for Mugabe in Zimbabwe. When all else fails because of our incompetence we blame white Satans, the capitalistic system, etc... Many of us have been benefiting from that system we love to hate. I don't like living in the USA and I would rather be back HOME speaking "Kreyol" or "Creole" to my folks, but because of greedy and criminal Haitians I am here. We have real problems in Haiti and we need real solutions not window dressings like coronation of Kreyol as our mother tongue. Haitians are wonderful people but also quite strange. They look at the tree but ignore the forest, and if they don't have a subject to bicker about they will create one.

I presume I have just signed my last epistle to WOH and I wish all of you my young Haitian friends luck. I know with all that bickering going on the country will need it.

Sorry for the long dissertation.

A true Haitian even if I don't think "Kreyolisation" at gunpoint is what is needed to urge it forward.

Roger

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Post by Guysanto » Sun Apr 06, 2008 3:04 pm

[quote]I presume I have just signed my last epistle to WOH[/quote]
Roger, I truly did not expect that and I sincerely hope that your presumption is as wrong as it possibly could be. We welcomed you warmly to the forum and none of us has signed an exeat, so where do you think you are going? Stay with us, brother!

I will not comment on your personal impressions, because they are what they are. I will only caution generally that writing styles on the Net often do not match with the personalities you suppose. I speak from a very rich personal experience because, over the 10 years of Windows on Haiti, I have met dozens of people that I had the pleasure (or displeasure, on occasion) of corresponding with, sometimes over long periods of time, and more often than not I end up being absolutely amazed with how way off my impressions were! That is just a note of caution, but I will not try to invalidate any of what you have said, and hopefully one day you will get to meet some of us as well and validate your own impressions.

For now, I just want to say that there is absolutely no reason for you to desert us. That we agree or disagree on specific arguments is the whole reason for having a forum in the first place. We can all learn from each other.

I am sorry that you liken me to Baby Bush, but what can I say? Maybe you're right, maybe you aren't. Whatever it is, please know that you will always be very much welcome.

Guy

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Post by Guysanto » Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:39 am

[quote]I don't think "Kreyolisation" at gunpoint is what is needed to urge it forward.[/quote]
One more thing, Roger (I hope that you are not quitting on me), could you point to me the instances where anyone on this forum has urged anything remotely resembling "Kreyolisation at gunpoint" ? OK, don't point to all the instances at once. Just one, please.

Some of us have advocated for incorporating our mother tongue (to a greater degree) in our educational system and in all aspects of our civic life. We believe sincerely that this would achieve social integration (the dismantling of our firmly established civic apartheid) much faster, for the benefit of the majority of Haitians. Others have argued (you have not been the first) that this would result in further isolation of the Haitian, as it is.

Which side is right? Is there a common ground? Do we agree on our objectives, first of all? We are all proud Haitians, yes. Or proud Haitian-Americans. Or whatever mix of nationality and citizenry. But the question is: what are the parameters of the debate? Who are we targeting? It is so easy to get caught up in personal differences that only matter to our individual selves, when we do not define exactly what it is that we are trying to achieve (or even talk about).

Kreyolisation at gunpoint? I don't think so, Roger. I only want to encourage people to observe the standards of Haitian Creole Orthography that have been written into Law since January 1980. I never want to discourage anyone from doing that. And it's not all that difficult, once it becomes a personal goal. It's like going to the Citadelle. You can stay at the bottom of the Hill and imagine how very difficult it is to climb all the way there. Or you can begin to climb, step by step, talking with your friends, and pausing when you can... to catch your breath.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. No one is forcing anyone else to visit the Citadelle at gunpoint. What would be the point, really? I could not think of anything more counterproductive.

Kreyolisation at gunpoint, Roger?

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Post by Serge » Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:40 pm

I just read the "last epistle" of our friend Roger.

So Roger, just when we were getting used to you, you are ready to quit on us. I will not repeat what Guy said, but I am in total agreement with him that no one would like to see you quit. On the contrary. Your views provide us some other perspectives and all that make for fruitful exchanges, even if they can be passionate at times. That is the way we all are, but like Guy said, you should have seen when some of us met in Miami a couple of years ago. We had a ball, and it would be nice if you could come and be with us on April 19 and 20.

So Doc, I hope we will continue reading you on WOH.


Serge

Dr Roger Malebranche

Post by Dr Roger Malebranche » Tue Apr 08, 2008 11:26 am

Hi Serge,

I was taken aback by one word our leader Guy said . I believe it was "reverse elitism". I had to get a shot in with "Kreyolisation at gunpoint" He got me back with the snide comment of looking at him as the darker "Baby Bush". Is he that bad?

Of course I would not go that far. WOH gives us a chance to dream about our Land, and exchanges with the younger crowd keep me connected. I thank Guy for his passion and hard work (even if he can be aggravatingly one sided at times).

Someone has to keep the "Young liberals turks" under control. It is a tough job but it has to be done and I shall volunteer. We all, conservatives and liberals, want Haiti to get out of the situation it is now. We are frustrated that nothing is going right with the country and we clash about the best ways to change that . I believe the salvation of Haiti has to come from the Diaspora, the dispersed. We have the brain power to do that. I also believe that our "at home" politicians are from the old school, treating public funds as their private bank accounts and they don't want the Haitians abroad to come back and investigate their bastardly deeds.

All of us are needed for those changes and reforms.

In the meanwhile I will keep needling you guys. You need it and I need it.

Roger

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Post by Guysanto » Tue Apr 08, 2008 12:35 pm

Roger, remember when you said: " We are just creating an elitism of another kind. There are the in Haitians who can read and write Kreyol and there are the outs (people like me...) who speak Kreyol well enough but don't have the motivation or facilities to read and write it." ???

I replied: "Roger, your inverse elitism arguments simply do not stand up under scrutiny, that is sheer speculation on your part."

I did not introduce the notion of inverse elitism. It was implied in your earlier note. You accused us of elite behavior, i.e. "an elitism of another kind" which I translated to "inverse elitism" simply because the French-speaking elite of Haiti has, historically, been the discriminating group that has kept the monolingual Kreyol speakers out of meaningful participation in Haitian society.

Why were you taken aback that I used the term "inverse elitism"? I thought that this was exactly what you meant to imply. If I am wrong, sorry... but please explain so I understand you better.

Glad Serge brought you back in the fold,
Guy

Dr Roger Malebranche

Post by Dr Roger Malebranche » Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:24 pm

Hi Brother Guy:

Some food for thought. You say that "the French-speaking elite of Haiti has, historically, been the discriminating group that has kept the monolingual Kreyol speakers out of meaningful participation in Haitian society". To people reading those lines immediately comes to mind a light skinned Haitian lording over his Kreyol speaking dark skinned brothers and sisters. You and I know that's not the truth. The majority of our presidents and leaders, the best as well as the worse, have been dark skinned people like you and I and some came straight from peasant stock also like you and I. They spoke French and Creole but mostly Creole. Some spoke only Creole. Right?

From the beginning, the fate of our nation has been in the hands of a Creole speaking black majority. Remember : "Koupe tetes boule kayes" ! Perhaps you will disagree with my statement but if Dessalines instead of Toussaint had been sent to Fort de Joux, if Toussaint had been the one to steer our country in the first years of freedom I believe the face of Haiti would be very different from what it is today. Don't you agree? And knowing of Toussaint's ideas I am certain he would have made sure that French education and technologies were kept. I am probably the only one who thinks so but what our country needs is not another Dessalines.

You seem to be confusing money power from later French speaking arrivals (Syrian, Lebanese and others) with the political power of the blacks who were already there. Those folks had little to do with our basic Haitian society. They even speak French worse than native Haitians.

From the beginning, whether you like it or not, French was the language adopted by our ancestors and we had to learn it when we went to school to become educated. The monolinguists (only creole speaking) were for the most part uneducated. We cannot blame only the light skinned elite for that. We should also blame our overwhelming in numbers black elite, the children of creole monolinguists who as soon as they became educated and got into power allied themselves with the light skinned minority (wives, mistresses, friends) etc... and turned their back on their uneducated darker brothers and sisters. Meaningful participation should include educated and intellectually capable participation. You cannot convince me that speaking Creole gives one the right to run the country. Being educated should come first and in Haiti, education since 1804, whether you agree with it or not included the speaking and writing of French. That was our ancestors' language like Spanish is the language of South America and English the language of Jamaica. At one time we tried to create a common language called Esperanto. Remember?

You want to change the system, feeling it would be better for the country. Perhaps you are right but I believe too much energy is being spent for too scant a return. You remind me of Jesse Jackson and his fight to be called African-American instead of Black. As for me, I would rather be a rich, successful, educated Black than a poor, ignorant, starving African-American. I also believe that the world would be more willing to give me respect as such... but that's me.

Keep the faith. I love to raise your blood pressure.

Roger

jafrikayiti
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Post by jafrikayiti » Tue Apr 08, 2008 8:51 pm

Hello all,

I wish I could participate more often but these are krazy days in "real life".

So, here is my quick contribution for tonight concerning the matter of the relationship of post-colonial African peoples and knowledge (including languages).

In music, take for example jazz, many Africans felt incapable of appreciating the value of what their own people had produced unless and until it receives the accolade of Europeans. Today many europeanizazonbied Africans who used to consider Jazz an abomination of the heathen, are more than happy to display it in their living room because it has "crossed-over". Likewise, you will see some Haitians marvel at the sound of a Scandinavian band, like Simbi, attempting to play some Vodou rhythms, then that may give them the "permission" to integrate Wawa, Bonga or Azor into their repertoire. Likewise, there are those who will wait for George Bush and Sarkozy to give them permission to use Kreyol in their living room. That has nothing to do with age, or generation but everything to do with one's centre of reference.

In Haiti where Kreyol is spoken and completely understood by 100% of the population, the question being discussed here would not have been on the table if it were not for the context of colonial domination within which our ancestors created the Republic. If you look at the mindset of folks like Dantes Bellegarde who was very influential in establishing the school system we see decaying in front of our eyes today, you can only conclude that the tragedy was predictable. In "Dessalines a parlé" Dantes Bellegarde declare:

"Avons-nous raison d'allieurs de parler de culture française? N'est-ce pas culture humaine qu'il faut dire ou mieux encore civilization chrétienne? Mais voici que des Haitiens prétendent repousser cette civilization chrétienne comme étrangère à la nation haitienne, parce que leur doctrine raciste entend faire d'Haiti une sorte d'autarcie spirituelle, sociale et économique, organisée sur le modèle des tribus des bords du Logone et qui servirait de "laboratoire central" aux africologues ou d'attraction pour les touristes en quête des spectacles excitants"....

In this particular diatribe Bellegarde who was Minister of Education for the longest stretch of time in Haiti, was dealing his blows against the African religious traditions but you can see clearly how, with this mindset, language and every other element of European culture and tradition would be considered "superior" and those of African origin "inferior" and an impediment to the nation's rise into civilization. After all, the greatest preoccupation of these folks seem to have been "white approval" at any cost.

The day must come when young Haitians can be introduced to the laws of physics, whether discovered or reformulated by Imhotep, Newton, Emeagwali or Makandal.....in their own language.

The day must come when the achievements and struggles of Narmer, Khufu, Akhenaton, Abu Bakari, Kwame NKrumah, Malik Shabazz, Mohammad Ali.....Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Daniel Fignolé, Gesner Henri (Koupe Kloue), Jean Dominique, Antoine Izméry, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine....etc... must be told to Haitians in the only language that ALL HAITIANS MASTER. It is not a matter of exclusion but rather - of late - very late - rectification of a terrible, a stupid - very stupid WRONG.

Those of us who have the option of addressing the bank teller in French at the air-conditioned office in Port-au-Prince may never stop to think twice about it. But every time we give in to peer pressure and speak to this teller in French, we participate in the anguish and embarrassment of the person next in line who feels obligated to speak "in tongues" to the teller where she is going to deposit HER OWN HARD EARNED MONEY.

Dr. Déjean says in Haiti students learn to shut up in French. That was then... and it was never the students who were mute or retarded, it was the school system and the spineless teachers who accepted the status quo...

Today, the train is running, those who don't like how it is running can watch as it goes by them but the train won't stop because it is already late.

I have written too much English in one evening.

M ale!

Jaf

Frantz
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Post by Frantz » Wed Apr 09, 2008 3:38 pm

Wow!.. It's been said that retired people have all the time to do everything they wish at anytime they want.. Well ! I am facing the harsh reality.. I have too much time on my hands and somehow I am too busy and can't find the right time to do things that I would normally do. I salute all of you and especially Roger, our new friend.

Roger, I am glad you are still on board.. There will be time we will strongly disagree but the bottom line is: we will keep the channel of communication wide open... please keep it up with us. WOH needs someone like you. I read with "gusto" the many reactions about the use of our native language.. and like Tidodo, I learned the abc's of Kreyòl right here. My mentors were Guy, Serge and Jaf. My essays were corrected publicly in this forum as I wanted. This is just to tell you... it's never too late to try and if you do, you will be amazed at your progress within two months. Trust me ...on it...."I have been tested": :)

Kenbe la .. pa lage
Frantz

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Guysanto
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Post by Guysanto » Wed Apr 09, 2008 10:29 pm

Monchè Woje:

[quote]Some food for thought... To people reading those lines immediately comes to mind a light skinned Haitian lording over his Kreyol speaking dark skinned brothers and sisters... From the beginning, the fate of our nation has been in the hands of a Creole speaking black majority. Remember : "Koupe tetes boule kayes" ! ... if Dessalines instead of Toussaint had been sent to Fort de Joux, if Toussaint had been the one to steer our country in the first years of freedom I believe the face of Haiti would be very different from what it is today... what our country needs is not another Dessalines... You seem to be confusing money power from later French speaking arrivals (Syrian, Lebanese and others) with the political power of the blacks who were already there... whether you like it or not, French was the language adopted by our ancestors and we had to learn it when we went to school to become educated... We cannot blame only the light skinned elite... We should also blame our overwhelming in numbers black elite, the children of creole monolinguists who as soon as they became educated and got into power allied themselves with the light skinned minority (wives, mistresses, friends) etc... and turned their back on their uneducated darker brothers and sisters... You cannot convince me that speaking Creole gives one the right to run the country. Being educated should come first and in Haiti, education since 1804, whether you agree with it or not included the speaking and writing of French. That was our ancestors' language... You remind me of Jesse Jackson and his fight to be called African-American instead of Black. As for me, I would rather be a rich, successful, educated Black than a poor, ignorant, starving African-American. [/quote]
Food for thought you call it? You gave me so much that I would have a serious case of indigestion if I tried to eat all of it. The question of color and other historical inferences that you make, I have to sidestep them for now, as interesting as they are. I certainly do not agree with much of what you said, but... I will leave that to another day, better yet to a new thread sporting a different subject title than this one (for archiving purposes).

The main point I was making - all along - was that it is ludicrous to think that we can best educate 8-10 million monolingual Kreyòl speakers in French (leading to rote learning, aprann pa kè, something Haitian students are infamous for). I argued that it is better to learn first, using your natural language than trying to do so with a borrowed one that you do not speak at home (the vast majority, that is), that you do not speak in any situation of urgency. Certainly, Haiti has produced leading intellectuals, brilliant doctors such as yourself, best of breed professionals including polyglots who master not only French, but Spanish, English, German, Portuguese, and who knows, maybe even Cantonese. I won't deny that. But this recipe has decidedly not worked for the majority. I have nothing against learning how to speak and write French well. More power to the Haitian who knows French and uses it well! More power to the Haitian who knows Spanish or English and uses it well! But the point is, how can we achieve a higher level of success in education? I believe that our natural language could become a powerful asset for a world class education. Natural language has been the point of departure in practically all nations considered "highly developed" today. Conversely, colonizing nations have used their own natural languages as weapons to keep their former or present colonies in check, under the guise of Francophony or whatever, to insure their loyalty and to keep them subordinate to their own imperialist wishes.

[quote]I love to raise your blood pressure.[/quote]
Now, now, the good doctor?!? Not to worry, I am staying cool as a cucumber. My former masters trained me well. ;-)

Even if I seem to be a caricature of both Baby Bush and Jesse Jackson... I don't know anyone else who has managed that particular combination.

M'ale Woje. N'a pale yon lòt jou. Angle ekri, angle konprann.

Barb
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Post by Barb » Wed Apr 09, 2008 11:17 pm

I'm not sure I have any business joining in on this topic, but it hasn't stopped me before. I teach in a school where the students struggle with language identity. Although we are officially a bilingual state, the pressure is on the kids to learn English and exit Spanish instruction. The kids fight us on this. Some of our children who speak pretty good English in 3rd grade figure out how to forget what they know by 5th grade. I've done a bit of reading on this topic and have run across the following theory. If you are a linguistic member of the dominant class, you can learn languages other than your own and it does not result in a loss of face. If you are secure in your cultural identity, learning a second, third, or fourth language does not result in ethnic injury. If YOU are choosing to learn other languages, it is much easier than when someone else decides you must. Many of our children opt for English. Another large group becomes fluent in both English and Spanish. But there is also a group of children who opt for Spanish only, despite or perhaps because of the major handicaps being a monolingual Spanish speaker in an English dominant society gives them.

I think language and language preference is a very deep and profoundly political decision. I see the kids at my school as highly sensitive lightning rods to the political opression around them, even when they have no awareness that they are.

Dr Roger Malebranche

Post by Dr Roger Malebranche » Thu Apr 10, 2008 6:44 pm

Hi Barb :
Thanks for the keen insight. You must be a caring and loving teacher. I agree with you on the matter of choices by the parties involved. Guy and Jaf and Leonel and Gelin and Serge and Frantz etc... SURMISE and ASSUME that what they think about Kreyol and the Haitian should be the way all Haitians see the equation. Unlike those gentlemen I am not a dictator and I only suggest another point of vue. The ideal way would be to have a referendum and poll ALL Haitians on what they think Kreyol (written and read) will do to advance their future in this big world.

If the majority feels the way my friends and fellow WOHers feel, I will gladly bow to the will of that majority.

The rest of the message is has been edited out, for reason that it is highly personal and does not pertain at all to the subject being discussed.

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:21 pm

[quote]...Guy and Jaf and Leonel and Gelin and Serge and Frantz etc... SURMISE and ASSUME that what they think about Kreyol and the Haitian should be the way all Haitians see the equation...[/quote]
That's not true, Roger. It's only an exchange of ideas, that's all.

Consider this:

Some time ago in the 80's a friend of mine was a teacher in a primary school in PauP. She asked me if I could sub for her for a few days. I agreed because I could find the time for it.

I came to class one morning and it was time for the students to come in front of the class and "vomit" some of what they had studied at home. One little girl came up and I talked to her in Kreyòl. She was very polite and with a big smile explained to me that she had studied the whole piece. I said, well, go ahead. Immediately, her face changed, she became extremely serious, her neck became bigger as she began to stretch her vocal cords and the sound of her voice was entirely different with a sort of rhythm...almost singing the thing. Why? She was spitting French now, it was academic time and that meant a lot.

I never could forget that experience. She would have been less tense if she had to explain the whole thing in her natural language. I have nothing against French or any other language. Far from it!!! I am not even advocating the kreyòlisation of everything. I had one experience and I still think about it.

gelin

Serge
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Post by Serge » Thu Apr 10, 2008 9:03 pm

Only now do I have time to read this part of the thread. I will not be too long though in saying the following.

I too have to take issue with this quote from Roger:

.."Guy and Jaf and Leonel and Gelin and Serge and Frantz etc... SURMISE and ASSUME that what they think about Kreyol and the Haitian should be the way all Haitians see the equation..."

After reading this, I am beginning to understand why Roger wrote this, or should I say I understand why he misunderstands my position and that of others.

I is not at all that we want all Haitians to think the same way about Kreyòl. If from day one, Kreyòl had not been used by our elites as a tool of social repression and discrimination, a kind of apartheid, we would not be having this discussion. By preventing a majority from becoming literate and by opening access to education to the very French speaking, "educated" few, we created an unacceptable , terrible chasm within the Haitian society. That is why I laud efforts that have been made in the last decades to breach the literacy gap in Haiti and by reaching out to the majority in the language they know best. It is a matter of literacy, of identity, of culture, and of development. Whether we want to admit it or not, we, French speakers, will always remain a minority in Haiti. I do not like it, but that is a reality. It is not a matter for all Haitians to see the same equation. The issue is much larger than that.

That is why our elite , our intellectuals show so much contradiction, even when they do not realize it. Can we find any greater contradiction than the one exhibited by one our greatest intellectuals, educators, diplomats, Dantès Bellegarde, whom Jaf mentioned earlier. No one defended Haiti with more passion abroad than he, and he is well remembered in international circuits and among historians all over the world. Yet, no one could believe how prejudiced he was against his own people because of the darker color of their skin. This is just mind-boggling!

Anyway, Kreyòl has not reached it full development yet, but it is steadily consolidating and as far as I am concerned there is absolutely no need to see in that a conflict with the French language, as long as we open our minds that it is a language like any other.

Serge

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