The French language has been, is and will always be a language of bondage, domination and exploitation for the Haitian people. It is not the French using it as a tool to exploit and dominate the people of Haiti, as it used to be during colonial time; it is, rather, Haitians using it to dominate and exploit other Haitians.
When I was growing up in Haiti, some of the abuses I used to see perpetrated against some of the people were revolting, and I am still traumatized by them. I saw with my own eyes people being ridiculed and humiliated for not being able to express themselves in French. I saw people not being willing to get service from government employees in government offices for not being able to speak French. If they need to get service, they would have to pay someone, a “racketeer,” to accompany them inside and speak on their behalf.
All Haitians educated in Haiti are psychologically tortured and traumatized. In school in Haiti, a country where ALL the citizens speak Creole and only a very few speak French, the French language is made the language of instruction. The students are being forced to learn in a language they can barely comprehend. Subjects such as mathematics, physics and chemistry, for example, are taught to the students in French, but if they must understand and solve the problems, they would have to translate everything from French to Creole. Their research papers or “dissertations” ought to be written in French, yet their chains of thought are in Creole.
Let me tell you the real politics behind this language divide. The French language is made a national language along the Creole language to further divide the already divided Haitian society. It is not to be used as a tool of communication to reach out to people as that is the true meaning of language. Politicians make good use of the French language in their politics of bluff to impress and show off their so-called intellect. They do it because most Haitians see French speaking ability as being educated.
How is French being made my language and I do not speak it? And mind you, I did my primary and secondary education in some of the best institutions in Haiti. In fact, I used to be severely punished in school if ever I got caught in the act of speaking a word of Creole. Yeah, I know some of the Frenchies, broken French speakers, are going to blame me for not being able to speak French as they often do. Why is it that I have never seen me speaking French in my dreams, not even once? Why is it that after so many years living in the US, my Creole has never left me? In fact, the longer I live away from my homeland Haiti, the better my Creole gets. Well, the answer to these questions is simple. It’s because Creole is MY language; French is not and has never been mine. I have never seen me expressing myself in French in my dreams simply because my intuition or subconscious is not molded in French.
In his masterpiece, The Haitians: Class and Color Politics (1983 edition), Lyonel Paquin, a privileged Haitian mulatto, whom I ADMIRE dearly for his insightfulness, frankness and boldness, had this to say about the French language, the Creole language and the Haitian elite:
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands -1980
Upon writing the book, I found myself facing several disturbing facts.
After living in the U.S. for more than 20 years, I had lost command of written and spoken French. The Haitian elite insist they control it; that is a fallacy. In the eyes and ears of a Frenchman, the Haitian-French is full of “creolism” and linguistic impurities.
Also in the eyes and ears of the Americans, it is more than obvious that I am still experimenting with their language.
So I was not only a man without a country, but also without a language. I truly felt at ease only in my native Creole, which certain people reject as a bastard tongue.
I was not discouraged. With certain bravado, I plunged into my self-imposed calvary, “So what!” I declared to myself “as long as I can convey a thought, that is all that matters. The finishing will come later.
Whenever I read this clause in the Constitution of my country, making French a national language, I think of how the so-called intellectuals -the politicians -are a bunch of stupid puppets. Here is what I am proposing as alternative of solution to this language nonsense:
- Amend the Haitian Constitution to make Creole the sole language of the land. Revise the nonsensical clause in the Constitution that makes of French a national language.
- Elevate the Creole language to a whole different level. Make it the sole official language for business and instruction in the country. It must be taught to our students at every grade level.
- Since we are evolving in a global environment, we must prepare our young Haitians graduating from high school and college for the global job market; learning many foreign languages is the gateway. That’s why I am proposing that French, English, Spanish, etc. be taught to our students as early as possible (kindergarten) to the very last day of their academic journey (university).
As you can see in my proposal, I treat French as a foreign language, and that is exactly what it must be for us Haitians. Like English and Spanish, it must be taught to our students, not as a national language of the people of Haiti, and certainly not as the language of business and instruction.