Update on the Language Journey

Time for some new stuff

stephen matlock

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Photo by Ian Turnell: https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-fruits-stall-709567/

It’s been a while since I last updated what I’m doing as I’ve been on the journey to learn Haitian Creole.

I started in March of 2022, just after Duolingo released its course in Haitian Creole, and after a month of daily practice I realized that I was just learning some words and some very simple grammar, but beyond that, the course was not as fully developed as Duolingo’s other, more mature courses. There were no stories, for example, and various other features were just missing. Plus, it didn’t go very far beyond some vocabulary building and some simple grammar. It’s good stuff, believe me, but it’s not going to get you to any kind of fluency where you could even pass the time of day.

I began looking for other resources, and so I found two Haitian teachers (online) who I began paying for weekly lessons, and a third generous Haitian man who wants to teach people to speak his language. (I send him money as payment, but he never asks for it.)

That has helped tremendously, and I’m slowly getting better to the point where I can kinda carry on a conversation. My downfall is vocabulary: every time I “fly solo” — that is, just talk about what comes to mind — I invariably reach a point where I just don’t know the right word, and I stop, flailing for what to say. Because Haitian Creole grammar is way more straightforward than other Romance languages (HCr takes a lot of its vocabulary from several old French dialects as well as Spanish, Arabic, and Taino/Arawak, and arranges the words syntactically in ways reminiscent of West African languages and dialects), I’m not usually stumped by how to structure a simple sentence. (Yes, it gets more complicated, and HCr is a more difficult language to learn well than Spanish.)

But it’s the lack of knowledge about the vocabulary. I have maybe one or two thousand words in my vocabulary in Haitian Creole. There are way, way more words than that in the language, many of them directly Creolized forms of French words or phrases using predictable rules. (This doesn’t apply to all the words in HCr because the vocabulary is not just French, and many words from older French dialects don’t have cognates in modern French, but it is useful for technical terms for law, medicine, religion, and so on.)

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stephen matlock

Writer; observer; sometimes doer. Fiat justitia ruat cælum. More at stephenmatlock.com Mostly off Medium now & writing elsewhere