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Yé Pèl Mò One Brown Girl

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Bonjour.  Okay, wait.  Let me get my Creole going:  Bonjou.  There.  I'm just trying to say Good Morning.  =)
Map of Martinique
It's just about 8am and I am back from a lovely (albeit too short) vacation where I spent time in both Barbados, British West Indies and Martinique, French West Indies.  Typically, I get a little post-vacation depression after returning home from a good trip, but since I literally hit the ground running as soon as I stepped off of the plane (just to catch another one), I haven't had any time to feel bad about not being in the tropics; about not eating seafood straight out of the sea and coconuts having fallen from the trees; about not walking the 3 mile stretch of black and marble sand beach every morning; about not sporting flip flops or bare feet for most of the day; about not learning more about each island's unique culture, etc.  Wah.  *Insert tears here.*
One of the cultural goodies I have been anxious to write about stems from my experience in Martinique* - my favorite island in the Caribbean to date - and it is about language.  Antillean Creole language to exact.  Here's the set up:
La Mauny Rum Distillery
I had a fantastic French teacher as a young girl and more great ones later in my life.  The first time I had a dream in French, I was in my 20s and it was very cool.  (I have only had a few since then.)  While I am not fluent, my comprehension is excellent, but only if the pace of the conversation is steady and not too fast.  My enunciation is on point ("You're American!?!?!?  You must be a French teacher!" from the clerk at the rum distillery in Martinique *wildly flattered*) but until I have been in a French-speaking country for 10 days or more, I sometimes struggle to find the right vocabulary words.  I really want to go to a French immersion program, but realized this past trip that in places where English isn't spoken, it really IS immersion, n'est-ce pas?  Moving on.
Prior to this last trip, I had been to Martinique twice and on both occasions people that look like me started speaking to me in what kinda sorta sounds like French.  Of course I would panic, thinking I had lost what little French skills I have.  "Excusez-moi," I would say with a wrinkled nose. "Je ne comprends pas. Désolé," I finished with my hands up in the air.  *Insert surprised expression on strangers face here.* 
You see, I blend in quite well in Martinique.  The locals think I'm French Creole.  For someone like me who has illusions (delusions?) of being French (and Spanish and Portugese and Indian and oh...every culture), I think that's pretty cool.  But the illusion ends here >   .  I wouldn't know a French Creole phrase if it was taped to my eyeballs.  But, I'm learning.  Here's how.
I was leaving La Mauny Rum Distillery in Rivière Pilote, Martinique when I saw a road sign.
"OMG!" I yelled to my husband (who got spooked by the urgency of my voice and couldn't decide whether to stop the car or not).  "The signs!  The signs are in French AND Creole!  Pull over!  Pull over!  I need photos!"  *Insert frustrated face of typically calm husband here*  And here are my little signs:

So now I know a few ways to say the names of some small areas in Martinique using Antillean Creole phrases.  Isn't that...I dunno...magnifique?!  I sure think so. And here's what Wiki has to say: 
Antillean Creole is a French-lexified creole language spoken primarily in the Lesser Antilles. Its grammar and vocabulary also include elements of Carib and African languages. Antillean Creole is related to Haitian Creole (spoken by 8.5 million people in Haiti, where a part of my heart remains), but has a number of distinctive features.  Dominican speakers of Antillean Creole call the language Kwéyòl.  Antillean Creole is spoken, to varying degrees, in Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Barthélemy (St. Barts), Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago. Antillean Creole has approximately 1 million speakers.
Originally used as a means of communication amongst African slaves on French-speaking islands, AboutStLucia acknowledges that any countries with French-based Creole are able to understand one other, though there might be slight variations in the language.
Of course, Amazon has Creole language books as well, one of which is Creole Made Easy.
Naturally I had to find out how Louisiana Creole (Kréyol La Lwizyàn) fit in to all of this and Wiki says that it is a French Creole language spoken by the Louisiana Creole people of the state of Louisiana that consists of elements of French, Native American, Spanish, and West African roots.  The grammar is very similar to that of Haitian Creole, although obviously not the same.  Here > Dictionary of Louisiana French: As Spoken in Cajun, Creole, and American Indian Communities < is another book I found on Amazon as well.  Whew. Lots of info, I know.
Since I'm still trying to perfect my standard French-speaking skills, I'm not quite ready to take on Creole, but learning is très cool and as you know, I love to share.  Until I sit down to write again, see you later...or as the French Creole say:  "Wa toi pli tar."

*Once I get back into the swing of things, I'll be giving more details about the specifics of my Caribbean adventures on American Airlines  =)


Anonymous on: January 26, 2011 at 4:38 PM said...

First, before I compliment you on how much I love your writing style, I want to say that YMML (you make me laugh). Guess I've covered what I wanted to say in this one sentence. Hmmm, what else? Yes, keep sharing your experiences and the facts that back them up, because OBG is a great source for my continuing education and, I'm sure, many of your followers. JudyC

Unknown on: January 27, 2011 at 9:38 AM said...


Loved your blog Tracey. As the daughter of a Louisiana Creole man I know that some people consider the language to be broken French or Patois...but there is a vast history and cultural significance that is not to be denied.
22 hours ago ·

I remember once in 7th grade French class there was a young girl newly arrived from Haiti. Our French teacher asked her to introduce herself and she started out saying "Ma nom est..." to which my teacher shouted out in dismay "Non, non, non". Too bad nobody wrote a blog back then (era of black and white tv) to explain the difference and put my young classmate at ease.
22 hours ago

WOW! thank you thank you. Finally a blog from someone who loves the French Caribbean. Funny I thought I was the only person who suffered from post travel depression
14 hours ago


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