Monday, March 9, 2015

Une nuance interessante de la langue francaise et le creole...

Among the key tools that define a society or culture, Language has been one of them and most of all has brought a sense of Unity in the Universe.

Coming from a French speaking Country known as Democratic Republic of Congo, I have been having this interest of knowing different versions of French as long as our French is the best compared to the one spoken in France.

I have come across an interesting part of the world called Haiti where french is spoken in a broken way. And this has really moved me to see first of all that French had had an influence beyond Africa and Europe.

Let us go straight to Haiti and discovery how French has influenced this country and what are interesting results that come out it.   

If you have a sense for Haiti's literacy statistics (slightly over 50%), and the challenges regarding access to education that have characterized Haiti's history, then you may get a pretty accurate picture for the number of Haitians who actually do speak and understand French fluently; they are a minority, and come either from a privileged elite, or from a middle class that has expanded over the years, but still represents a small percentage of Haitians. French in Haiti is only learned in school and in church; the Haitians that speak French at home are few and far between.

Regarding the difference of French and Creole, here's the deal:

The majority of the Haitian Creole lexicon comes directly from French, and mostly old French (which is why sometimes there more similarities between Creole and Quebecois French vs. European French). This French lexicon enables French speakers with a sharp ear to pick up many terms in Haitian expressions, and rarely, to garner meaning. But otherwise, these are two different languages.

Something that caught my attention has a French speaking person is that Haitian Creole has a completely different grammar and syntax; for example, definite articles follow nouns instead of preceding them, and they do not have any gender assignment.

French: le chien
Creole: chen la

French: la boite
Creole: bwat la

Even when it comes to Conjugation, this is also totally different.

French: J'ai, tu as, il/elle a, nous avons, vous avez, ils/elles ont
Creole: Mwen genyen, Ou genyen, li/li genyen, nou genyen, nou genyen, yo/yo genyen

(Note, there is no difference between "he" and "she" in Creole, nor any difference between "we" and "you - plural"; these details are determined by context)

(Note, there is no difference in creole between the infinitive form of a verb, and the conjugated form)
(Note, the Creole etymology of "genyen" as "to have" is unknown to me, but it may come from "gagner")

Conjugations in the past and future are not performed by changing the root verb; they are formed by adding terms.

J'ai eu = Mwen te genyen
J'avais = Mwen te konn genyen
J'aurai = Mwen pral genyen

Another barrier to clean translation between Creole and French is the Vodou culture - it is intrinsically bound up in the Creole language such that even if French terms are used in some expressions, their provenance gives them a subtle, or sometimes grossly different meaning.

Example: Someone walks into a home and Says "Hone" prounced 'O-NEH' (French = Honneur)
Proper response "Respe" pronounced 'RAY-SPEH' (French = Respect)

Probably not much meaning in French. RICH with meaning in Creole.

These are some examples to demonstrate that Haitian Creole is not at all "broken French" - it is an altogether different language with significant French influence.

Other linguistic influences on creole include a number of African languages, Portuguese, Spanish and English.

It is possible, however, for the MOST RUDIMENTARY interactions in both French and Creole to be mutually understandable - but some luck is involved. Many greetings, all numbers, and some basic elements of everyday life are basically the same in both languages - air, water, bathroom, food... these all share similar terms.

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