Saturday, May 15, 2010

On learning Creole

Before I came to Haiti I was both excited and nervous about learning Creole. In University I took a year of Spanish as I had thought I would end up in a Spanish speaking country - that didn't quite work out. When I first got here, every time I tried to communicate, I started speaking Spanish, because when one goes to a country that speaks a different language it just seems natural to speak the other language that you know, even if it's completely different. (This happened to me when I was on vacation in the DR last week - I kept trying to speak Creole in a Spanish speaking country).

Anyways, language learning can be incredibly frustrating and rewarding at the same time. I hired a private tutor within a couple weeks of getting here to have one hour classes 5 times a week. I seemed to be making acceptable progress during the first month, but then I seemed to hit a wall. It was so frustrating, I just couldn't seem to pick stuff up. One of the reasons for this I think was that so many people in this community speak English, and they always want to practice with native English speakers - works for me! I was not forced to use my Creole, there was always a way to get around it.

When the groups started arriving to work this winter, I found out that I actually knew more than I thought as I had to start acting as an interpreter for them. But I would still have times of great frustration as I didn't have the time to study for my classes.

While I was in the DR, I made a promise to myself to be much more intentional about Creole when I got back. So far, it is working. I've been putting the extra time into my homework each day - my teacher has noticed. I've tried to speak only Creole with people who also speak English. I even find myself sometimes thinking in Creole and the words just seem to flow out of my mouth - so encouraging.

So, I'm having fun with Creole. It means so much to Haitians when you make an effort to speak their language. They know that Creole is not a very useful language to learn - no one else in the world speaks it.  But it is their language and its so much a part of their culture. To understand them, one must understand Creole.

So now when people here ask how my Creole is - I answer, "M'ap vini" (I'm coming) and they smile and agree.

1 comment:

jenny said...

Yay for learning another language! Good job, Janelle!