Haitian Creole (Kreyòl ayisyen) is spoken in Haiti by all of its 7 million people. It is also spoken in the Bahamas, Canada, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, France, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. It is based on French and on African languages spoken by slaves brought from West Africa to work on plantations. It is often incorrectly described as a French dialect or as “broken French”. In fact, it is a language in its own right with its own pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and pragmatics.
Even though Kreyòl is a language spoken by all Haiti’s citizens and even though it was recognized in 1961 as Haiti’s official language along with French, it continues to have less prestige than French. Even after Haiti became independent from France in 1804, French continued to be the prestige language of government and of power. Not surprisingly, French is more likely to be spoken by the urban elite which constitutes about 8-10% of Haiti’s population. In addition, urban French-based schools have been privileged over rural Kreyòl-based schools.
Print media in Kreyòl has been limited due to regional and social variations in the language and orthography. Newspapers are beyond the reach of many citizens due to language differences, illiteracy, and cost. There are only a few television stations that broadcast in Kreyòl. Radio is the most important medium of communication providing a way for Haitians to stay informed.
In the large expatriate Haitian communities of New York, Miami, and Boston, Kreyòl is the subject of instruction and is also used to teach subject matter in elementary and secondary schools.
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