IS “Jounen Kweyol” A Myth or a Reality

Editor’s Note: I disagree with the writer on some points but I think he makes some useful points and raises a discussion worth having.

IS “Jounen Kweyol” A Myth or a Reality
By Dennis Springer

November 11, 2013 1:30 pm11(The Mirror Newspaper)

In my view our cultural patterns are an amalgam of our language, dress and what we eat. Our destinies are tied together by these things.  Yet, in the past we alienated those that held strongly to our culture and language. This alienation at the time was perhaps the most pervasive and insidious development in contemporary Saint Lucian society. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that it is a myth because of the way we portray that culture.

During the month of October we were bombarded with the “Jounen Kweyol” phenomena. The question on my mind as I have pointed out above is whether it is a myth or a reality. Is it one we have held on to in a cosmetic way or do we make a fuss in order to show how Saint Lucian we are because some are making a fuss during that particular month of the year?

These are fundamental questions when one sees the craze that is taken place by the populace. Therefore, how serious are we about incorporating our history and culture into everything we do? How serious are we and that includes the corporate sector, the government, schools and above all civil society in bringing about a more serious and concrete mode of thinking instead of the false impression I get when we are engulfed with the idea of our Creole heritage for one month of the year.

An idea coming to mind is that during the October month we should all make an attempt to speak Creole whenever possible. Pardon the pun, but how will certain people especially in the political circle survive? I am speaking about those who can’t even speak a word of Creole.

At times I am almost convinced that the public is being screwed for economic reasons as it is a gimmick and one designed to be cosmetic in order to make money. A clear indication of this is the deliberate use of chemicals by criminals in our midst being placed in sources of drinking water in order to catch crayfish to make the extra buck for “Jounen Kweyol”. These people are not interested in our Creole heritage. They are prepared to kill others in order to make the extra buck. What about those proprietors of some restaurants who are prepared to buy that crayfish and going on further to sell stale food once again to make the extra buck? The mind certainly boggles.

My personal view is that our Creole heritage is something too important for us to treat it as a one off event a year. Therefore, government, NGO’s, schools, the Chamber of Commerce, Civil Society and other institutions must make every effort to raise the level of awareness of who we are and where we come from.

If we are serious of our cultural heritage and not use it as a fun activity for people to make money or for blocko’s then the ministry of Education should begin to take the teaching of Creole as a serious part of a child learning its culture and language. This in essence is a vital part of that child’s history. It encourages the children to explore their traditional crafts and communal memories that have been absent in their lives. it is the youngsters to come that will resuscitate the dying aspect of our local culture. A culture can be durable and memorable if children are exposed to it early in their lives and that can begin by teaching them to speak Creole. Therefore, it should become part of the schools curriculum.

At this juncture, I want to remind the education authorities that it is through education we seek to change attitudes, through education we seek to change internal feelings, and through legislation we seek to control the external effects of those feelings.

Even though we see what can be termed a spasmodic revival of our culture yet it must be remembered that many still see it as a country thing for the so called uneducated. Some may quickly try and deny it but there is still the stigma attached to one who predominantly speaks Creole. If we are serious then we will begin to teach the language in schools.

History tells us that during our years of colonization by the British have inculcated that stigma and in order to win favour one had to speak English because by speaking Creole the individual would be stigmatized as being uneducated or Jean Bitason (a country person). The British had a way of enforcing their language and culture on others and therefore to get a reasonable job you had to speak English and not Creole. This attitude engendered many to abandon the language or pretend that they could not speak it. It was a traumatic period in our history for many as there was a clear division in our society.

Much of the problem then lay in the fact that we did not know how to read or write the language. It was just a spoken language by many in villages and the countryside.  If we cast our minds back, many old enough will remember that parents were so afraid of their children being stigmatized for speaking Creole that it was literally banned in the majority of homes where the so called better educated people lived.

I must admit that I always took pride and joy in speaking the language even as a boy because that was my mother’s language as she came from Dennery from a humble family where speaking Creole was the order of the day. She never finished her primary schooling then but she was a lady with a tremendous amount of common sense which is not common in our present day society.  I was happy to speak with my mother in the language she knew although we were banned by my father to speak Creole in the house. He was not the only one; it was an accepted rule of thumb that boys going to College or girls going to Convent who wanted a good job later on after their schooling did not speak Creole.

The irony of it all is that it took a white man to come to Saint Lucia to teach us our language yet, we have never given this individual the accolade or reward he deserved for resuscitating our language. Many now can write, read, and converse properly in the Creole language because of this individual Michael Walker.

If we are serious about our culture of which language has become the clarion call to bring us to our senses in terms of our culture then we have no alternative but to incorporate the language into the educational system and to be implemented in all schools. Another important strategy that encourages local language learning is the development of a certification system. Official certificates are a popular addition to the resume of many job seekers especially in Saint Lucia. Certification will also ensure the quality of the local language instruction at both primary and secondary schools. In my view all teachers should learn the Creole language and those refusing or lacking the relevant certification should be phased out. I know it sounds draconian but here we are talking about culture and heritage and nothing meaningful is being done to show we mean business. Therefore only teachers certified in the local language will be allowed to teach such classes.

Countries like Taiwan now take their culture in a serious manner especially the language culture. Whether it is from the mainland of China or from the indigenous people, the aborigines the government is prepared to spend huge sums of money in supporting and encouraging the development of local cultures of which there are many. At one time in their development the Han culture dominated and many of the aborigines similar to Saint Lucia in terms of speaking English took on the dominant Han culture because the Aborigines were seen then as Barbarians which gave a false impression of the diversity in the culture of the Taiwanese people. But with government legislation many are happy to be seeking clarity about their family lines and past.

Although having lived in Europe nearly all my life I have always continued to speak Creole and since coming back I have tried to use the language at every opportunity afforded to me more so on the medium of television or radio.

Yet there are some in our midst who still cannot speak a word of Creole and who make no effort to learn the language. It is sad to witness that those coming from overseas have immersed themselves in the language. I therefore believe that the time has come when all Saint Lucians should be able to converse in the Creole language, the tongue of their forefathers. That will be the day when, “Jounen Kweyol” will become meaningful in the minds of the populace because they are proud of their language and heritage.


~ by iandiyanola on November 11, 2013.

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