Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Nationalise Caribbean Creole - regional officials

Published:Friday | January 14, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Professor Hubert Devonish (right), coordinator of the Jamaican Language Unit/Unit for Caribbean Language Research, raps with Sir Colville Young, governor general of Belize, and Dr Marta Dijkhoff, former minister of education in the Netherlands Antilles, during the International Conference on Language Policy in the Creole-Speaking Caribbean, held at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, yesterday. - Ian Allen/Photographer

Prominent regional officials are declaring that Caribbean Creole are languages in their own right and believe they should be treated as such and nationalised.

The Caribbean officials and professional linguists were attending the first half of the two-day International Conference on Language Policy in the Creole-Speaking Caribbean held yesterday at the Mona Visitors' Lodge, University of the West Indies.

The participants met on the first day to discuss the final draft of the Charter on Language Rights and Language Policy in the Creole-Speaking Caribbean before meeting to approve it today.

The charter, compiled by professional linguists and Caribbean officials, calls for the implementation of Creole languages within the education system and in government and public administrations of Caribbean countries.

According to Professor Ian Robertson, it is important that Caribbean nations come together in support of the charter.

"We are all part of a linguistic experience with much more in common than separate," said Robertson, a linguist.

"These languages give a deep sense of self. When we lose self, we become a blob of people. People who speak a language have a greater degree of maturity than those who don't," he added.

Comfortable with mother tongue

Dr Marta Dijkhoff, a presenter at the conference and former minister of education in the Netherlands Antilles, argued that children are more comfortable within themselves when they are taught in their mother tongue.

Dijkhoff added that in Jamaica, Patois can be used to teach English.

Admitting she understood that parents would be cautious about their children being taught through an inexperienced language in the education system, she, however, stressed that the real success lay in the teachers' ability in knowing how to teach to ensure clarity.

According to Robertson, there is a need to train persons in the justice system to understand the subtle differences in Creole speakers' speech as there is a thin line between confession and rejection.

"I don't know that any legal system caters to this," he added.

Though the Caribbean officials who were present expressed their full support of the charter, they admitted that strong arguments supporting the charter would have to be presented to convince other country officials.

"We will have the greatest fight with the teachers' union but I come to this conference with an open mind," said Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, minister of education for Antigua and Barbuda.

Sir Colville Young, governor general of Belize, said it was time for the Caribbean to focus on the role Creole can play in its development.

"No longer are the Creole languages described as mongrelised or bastardised jargonised languages. We must accept our Creole languages," declared Young.

- Dania Mckenzie