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UWI notebook

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM
  • UWI offers Haitian Creole course to assist in disaster relief

The Jamaica Language Unit (JLU) in the Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy at UWI, Mona launches a six-week certificate course in Haitian Creole starting on Monday, March 1. The programme of study in Haitian Creole for select interest groups is designed to assist in the immediate relief efforts in Haiti by bridging the language barrier between the disaster relief experts and the Haitian population.

The first cohort of participants in the Haitian Creole course will consist of 36 individuals, namely, medical personnel, law enforcement officers, coastguards and engineers.

The course will allow participants basic proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking Haitian Creole primarily for the work context. The 60-hour course will expose the cohort to vocabulary, syntax, phonology and sound of the language, as well as its orthography or correct spelling and basic written and oral expression, together with the similarities and difference between Haitian and the other Caribbean creoles.

Haitian Creole has, since 1987, been recognised in the Haitian constitution as the main language in general use in Haiti. In addition, it is named as an official language of the country, alongside French. Haitian Creole is the language of the mass of the population of the country and without it, communication between the assisting groups and the displaced population is severely restricted.

Near-native competence

Upon completion of the first course, participants will have an option of pursuing a Level 2 course, which would allow further immersion in the language and greater competence. At the end of Level 2, participants are expected to demonstrate near-native competence in Haitian Creole through written and oral expression.

The JLU has received requests for language training from several professional groups involved in Haiti's relief effort. The Haitian Creole course offerings are also in honour of Dr Pierre Vernet, head of the Centre for Applied Linguistics in Haiti, who died in the January 12 earthquake along with his students. The centre is the equivalent of the JLU in Haiti, and the offering of the courses at this time is the unit's way of showing solidarity and honouring Dr Pierre Vernet's memory and the work that he carried out at the Centre to promote Haitian Creole and the rights of its speakers.

  • Studying Haiti's radical past

Haiti holds great historical importance to the region for several reasons, not the least of which is its proud status as the first nation in the Caribbean to gain independence. It achieved this in 1804, following a hard-fought revolutionary war that began as a slave revolt.

Since those bloody beginnings, the country's history has been a source of controversy, misperception and neglect. Much of this is a result of the island's confusing politics, which makes it difficult to study. Although landmark periods in Haiti's history such as the Haitian Revolution, the Duvalier dictatorship and, more recently, the Aristide era, are familiar to many in the region, much is still unknown about Haiti's political history.

Lecturer in the Department of History, Dr Matthew J. Smith, in an attempt to remedy this neglect, decided to research one of the important yet lesser known turning points in the country's political evolution: the post-occupation years between the end of US marine control in 1934 and the rise of the brutal Duvalier dictatorship in 1957. For his efforts, Dr Smith, whose main area of research is Haitian political and social history, received the 2010 Principal's award for the Best Research Publication and the Most Outstanding Researcher in the Faculty of Humanities and Education, Mona.

In 1934, Haiti celebrated its 130th anniversary as an independent nation. In that year, too, another sort of Haitian independence occurred, as the United States ended nearly two decades of occupation. In his book
Red and Black in Haiti:The First Comprehensive Political History of Post-occupation
, Dr Smith argues that the period (from 1934 until the rise of dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier to the presidency in 1957) constituted modern Haiti's greatest moment of political promise. This was a result of the strength of Haitian nationalism and the activism of political radicals who pushed for dramatic changes in Haitian society.
Red and Black in Haiti
emphasises the key roles that radical groups, particularly Marxists and black nationalists, played in shaping contemporary Haitian his-tory. These movements transformed Haiti's political culture, widened political discourse and presented several ideological alternatives for the nation's future. They were doomed, however, by a combination of intense internal rivalries, pressures from both state authorities and the traditional elite class, and the harsh climate of US anti-communism.


  • Building relationships: J'can language professionals return from Venezuela

Recently, a group of Caribbean language professors participated in Puentes al Caribe (Bridges to the Caribbean) at the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV). The event, organised by the School of Modern Languages at UCV, sought to reinforce working relationships, with an emphasis on professional and intellectual exchange, between the UCV and Caribbean universities.

Puentes al Caribe engaged professionals from the disciplines of language, arts, communication, anthropology, etc, in lectures, workshops and panel discussions. The Jamaican delegation comprised of Martha Corbett-Baugh from the Ministry of Education; Dr Rohan Lewis, head of the Department of Modern Languages at UTech and Maria Sanchez, assistant professor in the Department of English and Modern Languages at Northern Caribbean University.

The Jamaicans received a warm greeting from Professor Luisa Teresa Arena, event coordinator; Professor Lucius Daniel, director of the School of Modern Languages, UCV; and the entire faculty at


  • Alvin Curling to address youth violence at anniversary lecture

Doctor Alvin Curling, senior research fellow at the International Economic Governance Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Ontario, Canada, will deliver the annual UTech Anniversary Lecture on Thursday, March 18 at 5 p.m. at the Alfred Sangster auditorium, UTech.

His lecture will focus on the theme 'Addressing the Root Causes of Youth Violence: Protecting our Future'.

Dr Curling is a former speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Throughout his career, Dr Curling has demonstrated a strong commitment to public service, youth and adult literacy. He served as minister of housing and minister of skills development with special responsibility for literacy under the Canadian liberal provincial government, from 1985 to 1990. He has also served on numerous advisory boards and committees relating to world culture and literacy. From 2005 to 2006, he was ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Canada to the Dominican Republic.

Aniversary week

The annual anniversary lecture is being celebrated as part of UTech's 52nd Anniversary Week, to be held from March 14-19 under the theme 'Reaching for the Stars: Building Research Capacity, Scholarship and Service'.

Other scheduled activities include a thanksgiving service to be held on Sunday, March 14 at Hope United Church and Research and Technology Day on Tuesday, March 16. On Wednesday, March 17, the university will join with members of the Papine community and its environs for a cultural exposition dubbed, 'Concert in the Park', to be held from 2-4 p.m. in the Papine Park.

On March 19, UTech's Centre for the Arts will present a Literary Festival and Cultural Showcase. The festival and cultural showcase will pay tribute to Rex Nettleford, Trevor Rhone, Wycliffe Bennett, Sony Bradshaw and Wayne Brown.

The public is invited to share in these events. For further information, contact the Corporate Communications Unit at 927-1680 ext 2888 or 2299.