"Sak Pase?" "No, We're Not Burning."
Following up on Clinton and Kayla's last Culture Corner blogposts, I'll be continuing on to Part III of our language discussion. But for this week (get ready y'all), we'll be talking about HAITI CHERI!
Now, if you're a fellow Haitian or Haitian American, you've more than likely been forced to participate in a conversation that included at least one of the following:
- OMG, so do you speak Haitian?
- You shouldn't be in this level one French class, that's cheating.
- Oh you're Haitian? Sak pase?!
Believe me, although its 2016, those days are NOT over.
But my dear brethren, pa enkyete' ou! Those of you who've been brave enough to stand up and explain that Haitian Creole and French are two COMPLETELY different languages, we see you, we stand with you.
One of the fundamental differences between Creole and French lies within their structure; Creole is broken down so much that its sentence structure is completely different from French, which has quite rigid rules. Sentences in Creole can be changed and shifted in ways that French sentences can't, and although most words in Creole are the same in French (though many also aren't), they often have different pronunciations and assumed spellings.
It's also important to note that Creole is a language that can be written many different ways. Creole was not taught in Haitian schools for a long time, but it's recently been reinforced in their school systems alongside French. Most of the time though, Creole is picked up by ear or by learning individual words and phrases, and because many Haitians grew up only learning French in school, Haitian millennials are the ones who've had the advantage of learning to write it. Those who haven't learned to write it, simply write how it sounds. To learn French however, one may start off with words, but will eventually move into learning conjugations and tenses, which almost don't exist in Creole.
Because Creole has virtually no rules to it, its speakers have the freedom and liberty to pretty much do whatever they want with it. And though Creole is highly derivative of French, most French people wouldn't understand it.
But in efforts to debunk some common misconceptions and confusions, let's get into some examples:
- Where the French would say: Comment vas tu? or Comment ca va? (How are you?)
- Haitians would say: Koman ou ye? or Kijan ou ye?
- Where the French would say: S'il vous plait? (formal) or S'il te plait? (informal) (Please)
- Haitians would say: Tanpri, but this depends on context. Tanpri is often used to plead with someone or to ask a favor, but s'il vous plait or si'l te plait can also be used.
- Where the French would say: Quoi? (Huh?/What?)
- Haitians would say: Kisa? or (especially if you're about to get slapped) Sa'ou dim la?
Here are some similarities:
- French: voix Creole: vwa
- French: bois Creole: bwa
- French: loi Creole: lwa
These translations all sound the same, but are written completely differently.
One of the most interesting things about Creole is the colloquial sayings and phrases that come out of it, often not having derived from the language itself. For example, the phrase "take care" (as in "to take care of") in French is prend soin. In Creole, you could say pran swen, which would most likely sound the same as the French translation (depending on your accent). However, Haitians also say teke, which can be considered a pidgin form of the English phrase "take care."
So if I were to say, "I will take care of you," in English,
The French translation would be, "Je prendrai soins de toi,"
And the Creole translation could either be, " M'ap pran swen' ou" or "M'ap teke' ou."
If you think that's weird, it get's weirder.
The famous saying, "Sak pase?" "Nap boule!" (which no Haitian actually says) is understood to mean "What's up?" "We're okay," but literally translates to "What's going on?" "We're burning."
If there's anything I know about my people, it's that we can be super innovative, and also a bit strange.