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Learn Haitian Creole: Face-to-Face and Online Classes Offered

About Learning Haitian Creole with Berlitz

PIDGINS AND CREOLES are languages that arise to bridge the gap between people who could not otherwise communicate with each other. A pidgin language is one with sharply reduced vocabulary (usually between 700 and 1,500 words) of English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese origin, to which a sprinkling of native words have been added. In some cases, however, it is merely a simplified form of a local language, often with borrowings from another. A pidgin language has no native speakers; i.e., it is always spoken in addition to one’s mother tongue.

When a pidgin eventually becomes the mother tongue of a group of people it is said to have become “creolized.” As such its vocabulary must greatly expand, or re-expand, to accommodate its users’ everyday needs. Creoles such as Jamaican English, Haitian Creole (based on French), and Tok Pisin (“Talk Pidgin”), of Papua New Guinea function in a manner not unlike that of any natural language.

English creoles are spoken in many smaller countries of the Western Hemisphere, such as the Bahamas, St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Grenada, Belize, and Guyana. French creoles are spoken in Louisiana (by people known as Cajuns), Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, Dominica, and French Guiana. Papiamento, spoken in Curaçao and Aruba in the Caribbean, is based principally on Spanish.

In Suriname (Dutch Guiana), in South America, a language called Sranan, or Taki-Taki (“talkee-talkee”), based on English with numerous Dutch words, has become the lingua franca. Saramacca, a creole based on English but containing several features of African speech, is spoken there by the Bush Negroes, descendants of former African slaves.

Africa too has its share of such languages. A variety of the Pidgin English is widely spoken in Cameroon, as is another in Liberia. Krio, an English creole, is the lingua franca of Sierra Leone. Crioulo, a Portuguese creole, is spoken in Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe (all former Portuguese colonies). Kituba, a simplified form of the Kongo language, is spoken in Congo-Kinshasa, while Monokutuba, close to Kituba, is spoken in Congo-Brazzaville. Fanakalo, based largely on Zulu with many English and some Afrikaans words added, is spoken in South Africa among those employed in the mines. Another French creole is spoken on the islands of Mauritius, Réunion, and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

In Papua, in southeastern New Guinea, another pidgin language, Hiri Motu (formerly Police Motu), is spoken in addition to Tok Pisin. It is a simplified form of a language known as Motu, which became the trading language between the Motuans and their customers along the shores of the Gulf of Papua. The curious name of Police Motu stemmed from the fact it was used by the pre-war Papuan native police force, which drew its recruits from all parts of the territory.

On the Solomon Islands, to the east of New Guinea, an English creole known as Pijin is the lingua franca. And in Vanuatu, the former New Hebrides, there is yet another known as Bislama.

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Authorized from the original edition of The Languages of the World 3rd edition by Keneth Katzner published by Routledge, a member of the Taylor & Francis Group.

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