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Last updated: 28 January, 2010 - Published 19:15 GMT
 
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All about Creole
 
women clear rubble
The working language in Haiti is creole
From the reaction of many to the Haitian disaster, it is clear that the majority of the people in the Caribbean and the wider world is to try and do as much as possible to help bring relief to the earthquake devastated country.

But those in parts of the Caribbean who share a love of the Creole language with the Haitians have a special bond that they are finding particularly useful in trying to understand and respond to the plight of their traumatised Caribbean family in Port-au-Prince and the rest of Haiti.

Many people want to know what is Creole, or Kweyol, as the Dominicans and St Lucians fondly refer to it.

The free encyclopedia Wikipedia describes "Antillean Creole" as a French-flavoured Creole language spoken primarily in the Lesser Antilles.

Its grammar and vocabulary also include elements of Carib and African languages, and Antillean Creole is of course related to Haitian Creole.

A developing language

Because the language is so flexible, words from the official language of a particular country are usually sprinkled all over spoken Creole and often end up being an integral part of it.

So the Creole of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Haitian will automatically have a lot more French words, in contrast to the St Lucian or Dominican Creole where the odd English word crops ups.

That's not something necessarily favoured by Creole experts though, who seek to ensure that the Creole is respected in its own right, as they continue to help it make the transition from an oral tradition into a full-blown language.

Collaboration among the Creole-speaking islands in the 1980s resulted in the introduction of a kweyol alphabet.

Development that didn't just stop there.

St Lucia produced a Creole version of the New Testament in 1999.

The island's first Dictionary of St Lucian Creole was published earlier in 1992.

The Dominican connection

In Dominica, the late cultural activist Marcel Djamala Fontaine focused on promoting the language through a series of publications.

Caribs
Carib people, like the rest of Dominica, speak creole

And veteran radio personality, Felix Henderson, whose "Espeweyans Kweyol" (Creole Experience) was a staple diet for many especially in the rural communities, has in the past held special classes teaching the language to American Peace Corps workers and others interested in learning Creole.

Dominicans are fond of saying that Creole is a way of life for many in the "Nature Isle".

Haitian Creole

That description is in fact a lot more applicable to the Haitian situation.

And some of the Haitian Creole is making its way unto the major international news networks including the BBC and CNN as they try to tell the story of the earthquake and air the voices of the Haitian people.

For Haitians, Creole is an official language.

There was a time when it was more widely spoken in the Caribbean.

The countries that have retained it and are trying to develop it further are keen to explain that Creole is no longer seen as a sign of lower socio-economic status.

It's more today a mark of national pride, as the long weeks of cultural activity leading up every year to Dominica's independence anniversary celebrations in October/November attest to.

Various village, district and national competitions maximise the use of Creole.

And Jounen Kweyol (Creole Day) held in Dominica on the last Friday of October is now a well established tradition.

The Creole-speaking islands have also been known to observe together an International Creole Day, linking them across the world with countries like the Seychelles where the language has survived and flourishes.

 
 
LOCAL LINKS
New BBC programme for Haiti
23 January, 2010 | News
creole language
02 October, 2009 | News
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