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- Communication When Traveling
Where Creole Is Spoken
Hello There, VivBounty here to give you some light perspective on Creole and a few places where it is spoken in relation to my exposure to it. Until I decided to write this hub, I had a vague notion that Creole is French slang. As I'm not a linguist, nor do I pretend to understand the intricate structure of language, I did some reading and found that Creole is not derived from a language, nor is it a broken language and as such has had an undeserved stigma amoungst educators as being deficient or defective .
Loosely interpreted and based on my own experience, Creole usually exists and is created in communities throughout the world which had been colonized by speakers of English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, to name a few, and several of these in succession, like my ancestral islands of Mauritius and Seychelles. These multi-lingual communities spawned creole-speaking populations where children, as they do, with innate intuition, form language from the need to communicate. This is also believed to be the case with their forefathers where Creole emerged in multilingual communities as a result of persons of differing linguistic backgrounds coming together and having to communicate. We certainly experienced a similar phenomenon in Spain with the community around us being made up of people from every country in the European Union. As a child the people around me spoke, in order of predominance, English, French, Creole, Patois, Swahili, Italian and Konkani; a language spoken in Goan communities. Victor Hugo said in 1852, 'Necessity is the Mother of Invention', and I can tell you my sisters, cousins and I have a language all our own. My beloved guardian angel, a.k.a. our house keeper, a Kenyan man of the Kikuyu tribe spoke Kikuyu, Swahili, Luganda, English, and Creole, but spoke to me in English and his delicious cuisine covered all of the aforementioned regions and cultures.
OK enough already with the technicality. Let's not bore you. For those who are interested, see the link(s) below for a better literal understanding.
Creolization of Language
- Maroon Societies and Creole Languages
An absolutely brilliant educational guide, shedding light on Creole and its origins and structure...
Seychelles and Mauritius
My maternal grandmother was born in The Seychelles. She spoke Creole to her friends and her children, but rarely to us, her grandchildren. Likewise my paternal grandparents were Mauritian, and spoke Creole but educated and raised their children and grandchildren in English.
Our first language was English. It is what my nuclear family, i.e. father, mother, siblings and I refer to as our mother tongue. When I taught English as a second language in my late twenties in Japan, I was referred to as a native speaker of English.
As children we inevitably picked up Creole words and expressions by osmosis, but never spoke it fluently. When we grew up and my sisters had children, we did as our parents did using Creole words sporadically dotted in English conversation with them and to keep things from them. Just like us before them, they learned the meaning of these words and phrases and we would hear them repeated amoungst themselves when playing.
Migrating through several continents many in our community eventually ended up in Canada, a bilingual country, my sister now lives and I have lived in the US for 10 years. We would speak Creole, certainly not the fluent version our grandmother spoke, but our version of it in personal conversations over the phone from our respective office and when leaving voice mail on our business lines. We knew we were not the only migrating community, but figured the chances of anyone understanding Creole within earshot was slim to none. We figured wrong.
New Orleans and the Cajun Creole connection
Over the time when my sister and I both lived in the US, we spoke frequently over the phone in Creole. She was a receptionist in the foyer of the company where representatives and sales people were received for several years.
One fine day, she had called me about something personal, speaking Creole because of the office plan, knowing she could be heard. A salesman entered the foyer and just as she concluded the call, to her amazement, he answered her in Creole.
This blonde Caucasian American who spoke English happened to be a Creolophone from New Orleans, Louisiana. Although with slightly different pronunciation they were actually able to have a conversation in Creole, no harm done, but we learned to be more discreet at work.
The Haitian boyfriend look-alike at the CNE
For the 2 decades I actually lived in Toronto and the surrounding suburbs it was inevitable that I would go the CNE, if not annually, then whenever I had the nieces and nephews for the weekend.
We as teenagers used to make a day of the CNE, to meet suitors or prospective suitors, as kids do anywhere you find a fairground or adventure park. My boyfriend at the time had just left for Air force basic training in Abilene, Texas. At the CNE that summer I thought I was seeing things. I bumped into someone who could pass for his identical twin! As we were throwing basketballs trying to win stuffed toys at a stall, my sister said something to me in Creole.
This young man, named Andre, shocked us by asking us where we are from in Creole. Again, the actual words and pronunciation differed slightly, but we were actually able to carry on a short conversation about the similarities between Haitian Creole and ours; the Seychelloise/Mauritienne Creole.
The sweet Grenadian nurse
The early 90's were years when I traveled more than ever before. From 1989 until 1992 I spent a total of 2 years in Japan, on and off and in between those stints, I spent Christmas in Zurich, Valentine's Day in Seattle and took my mother who visited me in Japan, to Hong Kong, China, Macau and Phuket.
This was also the time my father was hospitalized for several months before losing his battle with cancer. Those months I spent at his bedside were healing, cleansing, holy, believe it or not, fun and most importantly gave us peace and closure at his passing.
Dad was having a good week, chirpy, bright, and painless. His team assured me I could take a few days to visit my fiancée in Zurich and Dad "shoo'd me off with his blessing. In the 10 days I was away, being the proud dad that he was and a bit of a bragger, he told the nurses I spoke 6 or 7 languages fluently which I don't and just chatted on about my globetrotting, embellishing each story more than the last. It didn't help matters that when I got back, he spoke to me in Creole, especially when the nurses were nearby.
One day he was criticizing the way his ward mate was eating. Again in Creole, he described how the man had a funny way of eating, that he couldn't understand why a person would ruin mashed potatoes by pouring his soup over them, and on he went until his Grenadian nurse walked in and joined our conversation. Well that was a first for me. I had no idea that Creole was spoken on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Dad immediately switched on the charm, as was his way, and distracted his nurse with stories of their shared linguistic heritage.
It really is a small world, and getting smaller all the time. This brings to mind an expression our groundskeeper in Spain shared with me about this idea. He said "In Spain we say the world is a handkerchief", making a square gesture with his hands. I completely agreed, am convinced more than ever that people in general are more alike than we are different and it is proven to me every time I travel.