Insightful History of Haitian Creole

In many parts of the world languages shape history. For instance, the colonial past of India was reflected word to word through the poems, stories and epics produced during the 19th century. Poets and storytellers employed several tools of the language to capture the essence of their time which we now know as rich chapters of history. But in some cases history develops languages, as we see in the case of Haitian Creole. The origin of Haitian Creole can be traced to the years between 1680 and 1740 when Haiti was a flourishing French colony. The French traders accumulated so much wealth during these years that the streets of Paris were replete with phrases like, ‘As rich as a Creole’. The credit for all this wealth goes to the poorly kept slaves of such traders who were employed day and night to produce tobacco, cotton and sugarcane on the island.

The entire population of Haiti at that point of time comprised of an equal mix of planters (the white plantation owners), gens de couleur libres (liberal people of colour) and slaves. When the sugar plantations boomed, a much larger labour force was required to manage them. Therefore, mass enslavement of West African individuals was carried out and imported to Saint Domingue. This blown up slave population led to decrease in interactions between French speaking colonists and slaves leading to the development of Creole language.

While Haitian Creole continued to be the dominating language for all people residing in Haiti, the official standardization took place only in 1940 when President Elie Lescot. This particular standardized version however was not well received by several sections of the population. After another 40 years, in 1979, the Haitian Creole orthography became officially standardized. Several slight modifications continued to be executed over the next two decades like the discontinuation in the use of hyphen and apostrophe and retention of the grave accent in ⟨è⟩ and ⟨ò⟩.

The official adoption of Haitian Creole was a watershed moment in history as it nudged a large chunk of the population to speak the language. Meanwhile French was left with only 9% of total speakers in Haiti. This was not entirely due to the official adoption of Creole but also due to the fact that French had negative connotations associated with it because of the French colonial rule. The people then began regarding French as langue d’instruction or language of instruction and Creole as outil d’enseignement or a tool of education.

As for the natives, the minority population that is bilingual, speaks French in formal settings and Creole in domestic settings while majority use Creole for all sorts of communication.

If learning Haitian Creole is on your to do list, then this background will give you an insight into the rich history it envelops. The internet is full of resources if you are looking to learn on your own. Although structured language lessons go a long way to build a strong foundation of learning. One such institution is Creole Tutors whose online classes and one on one mentoring sessions will enable the best language learning experience for you from the comfort of your home. Learning Haitian Creole will enable you to connect to about 12 million fellow speakers with a melting pot of diverse ethnicity. The other advantage of learning Creole is that it is not the most sought after language by people choosing to speak multiple languages. This will make your profile stand out and give you a chance to capitalize on the rarity of supply of Creole speakers and translators. As it is learning Creole and reflecting on its several aspects, makes one appreciative of its history and culture and charts the way ahead for a future that is emancipatory and bright.