I’m originally from Haïti, where we claim the official language there is French. Honestly back in the seventies, to my knowledge, only those who went to school were able to converse in French.
The Creole language is now considered to be our official language. Creole is a mixture of French, Spanish, English, and some Indian words may even be included. However, since most of the old countrymen never went to school, they normally speak what we call a “raw creole,” purely undiluted.” Those of us who are from the City, will probably get a brain aneurysm, before we can understand what they are trying to convey to us.
The following is a true story.
When I lived in Los Angeles, most of the older Haitian folks who were my Mother’s friend, were referred to as Auntie. I recalled going to see one of them. A friend of mine happened to be there when I arrived. So when my aunt asked me to sort out a pile of mail she had on the table, I did as she had requested. I opened all the envelopes, then placed them back on the table before her. However, among her mails, when I noticed a letter from the immigration, which I thought must have been of high urgency, I told her in Creole:
“Auntie, you have a letter from the immigration.” I also handed the letter to her. Instead of answering, I noticed she had given me what we call in our culture “the look” before she got up from the table, and walked toward her bedroom.
My male who was sitting there started to laugh. Since I had a slightest idea the cause for his humor, I asked him, why he was laughing. Besides, I really was not familiar with the old folk’s body language. Apparently, he was a pro.
He answered me, “Soon, you will answer me what’s so funny. Do you want a butt whooping? Your auntie can’t read.”
“Can’t read? How is that possible – she has a driver’s license, doesn’t she? “
“And your point is?” He answered back.
Just then, I noticed my auntie came back with a large belt, and place it on the table. (Please keep in mind I was already in my twenty’s, married and had my first child).
“Auntie, did you hear what I just told you? Or perhaps, you want me to read the letter for you – or do you prefer to read it yourself later on?
She gave me a pronounce look this time. Just then it down on me why she went to get the belt from her bedroom. I wanted to keep my mouth shut, but I was broiling out of curiousity. So I asked her:
“Auntie, if you can’t read – how did you manage to pass the driver’s license test.”
My friend got off the table, and went to stand by the door.
She answered “I failed every one of the exam, then I studied the correct answers.”
“But, how did you study, if you can’t read?”
Just then I realized running track was the best investment I could have made during my High school years. The old woman started running after me with the belt. It was so funny, she finally gave up trying.
Finally, she ordered me to come back on the table and read allll her mails. So, I pretty much spent the whole afternoon reading her mails. When I was finally done, I grabbed my purse, and made sure I kissed her goodbye, before I asked her:
“Auntie, are you among the Haïtians who went to school for a few years? Or you’re among those who never went to school?”
She answered me: “Nadege Allez to Herll!” Meaning: “Nadege go to Hell!” But the words she had used to answer me, they were a mixture of French and English. So before I ran off, I yelled:
“Oh Auntie! I didn’t know you could speak “Frenchglish!”