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28 July 2014
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English based African-Caribbean creoles today
The history of African-Caribbean creoles

English-based African-Caribbean creoles today by Viv Edwards

Important employers such as London Transport and the NHS recruited large numbers of West Indians to work in the UK during the post-war boom economy years of the 1950s and 1960s. Important African-Caribbean communities can be found in all large cities, but particularly in theWest Midlands and Greater London. Brixton, probably the first part of London where African-Caribbeans settled, remains the centre of a vibrant community; other important communities can be found in Hackney, Willesden, Lewisham and Peckham. In a survey of London school children conducted in 2000, English-based creoles were the eighth most commonly spoken language in the capital.

Because English is the official language of the former British West Indies, schools assumed for many years that children needed no additional support. Teachers often thought that the children were simply speaking 'bad English' and explained their inability to cope in terms of low intelligence. Disproportionately large numbers of children were placed in schools for the 'educationally sub-normal'. Canadian schools, in contrast, offered special provision in English as a second dialect for African-Caribbean children arriving in the 1980s.

By the time that educators were aware of the systematic differences between English-based creoles and British English, most children were bidialectal, able to switch between the local British dialect and the creole. The distinctive speech of second and third generation children which incorporates many features of Caribbean creoles is essentially a marker of their black British identity.

One of the ways in which English-based creoles have had a real impact on the wider population is through the lyrics of African-Caribbean music which, in its many and varied forms, has inspired not only African-Caribbeans but people from a wide range of backgrounds. Other significant African-Caribbean cultural contributions include the Notting Hill Carnival, an event which has grown from a small procession in costume in 1964 to a huge multicultural arts festival, attended by up to two million people.

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