What Is French Creole?
French and French Creole may have started from the same root language, but they are now very different. In this article, you will learn the difference between these two distinct dialects and exciting facts about how French Creole developed over the centuries. If you need fast, accurate language translation services to or from French Creole and other languages, contact etcetera Language Group, Inc. We work with private and corporate clients in the legal, medical, technical, political, and engineering sectors to name just a few.
There are thousands of interesting languages worldwide, and French Creole is one of the most fascinating. Developed in Haiti and derived from French, it is a unique language that expresses the culture and people it represents. The unusual origins of Creole include a distinct evolution that language historians are still unraveling.
Where French Creole Is Spoken
Mainly spoken in Haiti and by Haitians who have settled in the United States, elsewhere in the Caribbean, and worldwide, French Creole has millions of active native speakers.
France was a dominant colonial power in the 18th and 19th centuries. The country colonized the Caribbean, Africa, and much of North America. In each case, France imposed its culture and language on conquered peoples. This trend included Saint Domingue, the island home of the Haitian and Dominican nations and known as Hispaniola today.
French Creole developed out of necessity. African slaves and French slave owners communicated through very basic French. The slaves took what they knew and created new words combined with their languages and French. As a result, Haitian Creole adopted words from English, Spanish, Portuguese, and West African languages. Although it was the language spoken in Haiti for centuries, it wasn’t recognized as the official language of Haiti until 1987, when the country adopted a new constitution.
Difference Between French Creole and French
The truth is that French and French Creole speakers often have difficulty understanding one another. That is because they are essentially different languages. Three main differences separate these language cousins:
- Articles follow nouns in French Creole. In French, articles follow nouns, but it’s the opposite in French Creole. For example, in French, one would say or write le chien (the dog). In Creole, that becomes chen la. Haitian Creole also does not change articles to represent gender, making it perhaps more egalitarian than its French parent.
- Haitian Creole doesn’t conjugate verbs. Language students everywhere can appreciate the simplicity of French Creole verbs. In many cases, Haitian Creole uses infinitive verbs derived from French. It uses tense markers to define the tense. Many of the verbs are also spelled and pronounced differently than native French because Creole words are spelled how they sound.
- Noun Pluralization. Because French Creole is a mix of languages, it doesn’t use all French conventions. One of the most significant changes is how to express multiples. To make a word plural in French, you add “s” or “es.” In French Creole, to pluralize the word (liv) book, you would add “yo,” a definitive article, to get liv yo (books).
9 Facts About French Creole
Here are some other fascinating facts about French Creole that will help you understand the origin and evolution of this living language:
- French Creole is the national language of Haiti, along with French. Millions of people have taken their native language with them as they moved abroad. You can hear French Creole on the streets of Miami, on the beaches of Caribbean islands, and even in Europe. Many Haitians speak French and Haitian Creole and use Creole for everyday communication to represent their national identity and heritage.
- French Creole has a strong African influence. To a large extent, African slaves learning and modifying French developed the Creole language. Slaves from all over West Africa landed in Hispaniola. On a single plantation, many African languages could be heard.
- French Creole developed from Popular French, also known as Common French. The French people in the colony of Saint-Domingue mainly spoke Common French. This varied greatly from the French heard in palaces and castles, known as Standard French.
- Slaves learned Popular French to communicate with one another. Because they spoke different African tongues, slaves often could not communicate in their native speech. Therefore, they learned popular French to communicate better amongst themselves.
- Over time, a common shorthand or “pidgin” language developed. Eventually, this became known as Creole French.
- Both black and white residents of the colony adopted Creole French as the lingua franca. While the vast majority of the Creole language derives from French, French, and Creole speakers have difficulty understanding one another. That’s due to the numerous grammar differences, a few of which are discussed above.
- In many cases, Creole has kept popular French meanings and pronunciations. This differs from the evolution of the French language in France, where Standard French words have replaced many of the Popular French words. Here is an example. Ki jan ou rele? This is how you would say what is your name in Creole. In French this becomes Comment vous appelez-vous? There are several differences to unpack in this example. For example, the Popular French word “héler” has been replaced in France with ‘appeler.” Although unrecognizable by modern French speakers, the Creole phrase is entirely of French origin.
- French Creole has many African elements. Since the language is derived from slaves, it’s natural that it has many aspects from African languages. For example, the Creole name for okra is gumbo, which comes from an African language.
- The Haitian constitution of 1987 named Haitian Creole as a national language. Hundreds of years after it became a living, breathing language, French Creole received official recognition when Haiti adopted a new constitution. Now, French and Creole French are the two national languages of Haiti.
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