Creole blues

From time to time I have had Creole speaking students in my class–and it has always been the fastest language group to drop out of my classes–but this year, since the earthquake in Haiti, there have been quite a few more. My Spanish is good enough for the Hispanic teachers to call me “compadre” and for non-bilingual administrators to freak out about my use of Spanish in the classroom, but trying to teach the Haitian students is a challenge.

For example, past tense.

English:

I was

you were

he, she, it was

~~~~~~~

we were

you were

they were

French:

j’etais [JZEH tay]

tu etais [TWETtay]

il, elle etait [il ETtay, el ETtay]

~~~

nous etions [news estseeYON]

vous etiez [vou zet stieeh]

ils, elles etaient [il ZETtay, el ZETtay]

Creole:

Mwente [mwen TAY]

ou te [oo tay]

you te [you tay]

~~~~

nou te [noo tay]

yo te [yo tay]

you tout te [yo too tay]

Notice the French nous with the silent “s” becomes nou in Creole.

So far so good, but the problem is that the Haitian students speak Creole, but they read French. Sort of. As far as I can tell, their dictionary skills aren’t good either, so there goes comprehension. And there’s no point in trying to look for a Creole dictionary, because they can’t read Creole, since it wasn’t taught in Haiti until around the 1980’s.

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