Keeping Creole Alive: Learning Creole for Beginners

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

By: Katwian Zetrenne-Norman

I often hear that Haitian Creole is a dying language. And in some aspects, I could see that being the case. The people of Haiti speak Creole and French, but the language of the country is Creole. For some families, the language is passed onto each child and family member and never skips a generation. But for many Haitians, when they come to the US, they assimilate and raise their children, the language passes on from one generation and ends up stopping at another. I lived that reality. It wasn’t until I was 24 years old that I decided to take my desire to learn Creole seriously, and began teaching myself.

Like any, learning a new language can be difficult. Understanding the grammar rules, gaining vocabulary and having the confidence to really learn, apply and speak. It’s all daunting. But, here are some ways to begin teaching yourself Creole that really helped me.

Remember that Creole is its own language. That means it doesn’t necessarily follow the same grammar rules and similarities as the language(s) you already know. For instance, there are words in English that don’t exist in Creole.

When I first started to learn Creole, I found it extremely intimidating to ask other Haitians for help. So I found that studying Creole the way I would study math or science was the way to go. Utilizing books, videos, and other resources while taking notes was my best bet.

I started with learning simple vocabulary. Everyday words like “kouri”, “ekri”, things I would utilize daily. My familiarity with some vocabulary helped this process a bit. I then focused on learning how to build even the simplest of sentences. Using YouTube, I studied nouns and how they aren’t necessarily conjugated; this was a blessing!

I spent most of my time writing sentences, speaking to myself aloud and eventually I ended up utilizing my social media to join learn Haitian Creole groups and social groups with other Haitians of my age group to practice. I can say that most of my success came from a group on Facebook, Learn Haitian Creole Moderated by Gloria Guingnard Board. She hosted a two-day in-person creole seminar, equipped with a book to take home and use as a resource. I still use the book to this day which has a translation dictionary on the back. I am by no means fluent, however I have suprised myself a time or two with the fluency I have gained from the amount of practice and studying I have completed.

I say all this to say, that if you want to learn Creole you can. It may be difficult and it may be intimidating but in this day and age, there are many resources available to use.

The following are resources that you can use are as follows: