Sunday, May 30, 2004

Blz: Creole and creolité

Read this here.

I've got no objection to Creole or dialect or however one wishes to call it. As a TTian, I speak it with the best of them and am proud to say I've retained my accent after thirty years, plus or minus a few, in these United States. Hey, it helps to sound like a Trini when you go back to TT and go buy things in the market. More than that, I like to practise adjusting the register of my speech to suit my company. Call it camouflage or what you will. I call it a disarming first step in finding common ground and using that as a basis for further dialogue.

To get back to the Belize story, though, my point is the lingua franca of the business world is English, and the young become confused and unable to adjust register (adapt their kind and level of language use) to suit their audience when they are taught Creole. Pretty soon, and I have seen it to be so, even the teachers are speaking Creole to the kids who soon become unable to see where they are making errors in standard English.

I remember teaching Michael Smith's poem "Me Cyaan Believe It!" to a fifth form Literature class, two stanzas of which ran:

Waan good
nose haffi run
but me naw go siddung pon high wall
like Humpty Dumpty
mea a face me reality

One little bwoy come blow im horn
an me look pon im wid scorn
an me realize how me five bwoy-picni
was a victim of de trick
dem call partisan politricks
The words on the page meant nothing to the students because of their unfamiliarity with the scribal Creole. However, they were well experienced in the orality of Jamaican Creole through dub music.

So, on the one hand, I lamented because my students were unable to appreciate the richness of the poem on the page; on the other hand, I was glad because their inexperience with scribal Creole meant they would be less likely to replicate its orthography and grammar when doing CXC English A and B.

Also, in some secret inner part of me, I can't help thinking that the rich orality of Creole loses something in transcription. Next thing, you're dealing with issues of standardization. Pretty soon, you're on the track from Chaucer to Shakespeare. Then what, do we develop a new Creole to express our creolité?

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