The patois culture and language will be celebrated at an online concert
October marks International Creole Heritage Month, a celebration of Creole languages around the world.
In Saint Lucia and Dominica, annual activities honor the rich linguistic and culinary cuisine of the islands, a complex blend of French, British and African cultural influences that have given the islands their distinct identity.
A month of food festivals and cultural exhibitions ends with Jounen Kweyòl (Creole day), respectively the last Friday and the last Sunday of October.
At home, the celebration seeks to rehabilitate the patois language through cultural events and academic research to save the language from permanent loss.
There has been a marked resurgence of interest in French patois over the past decade, largely driven by language teachers and researchers and culture enthusiasts, with the Kweyòl Mass (Creole mass) at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Paramin and at the Talparo RC Church, as well as dialect courses offered throughout the country.
The speaker, teacher and passionate about patois culture Michelle Mora-Fodingham spoke with Loop news on the importance of arousing interest in Creole culture and the patois language and this year’s component of the annual Tout Bagay Patois concert Sé Yon Bagay Patois! (It’s a Patois Thing!), Broadcast live today at 5 p.m. ET.
Mora-Foderingham said his interest in learning the dialect came from his father, who was fluent in the language.
Exposure to a range of languages in his youth – Bhojpurifrom his mother’s family from the East Indies, the Spanish of his grandparents and the French of friends from Martinique and Guadeloupe who settled here in the 1980s – aroused his personal curiosity for foreign languages and cultures, encouraging him to travel to the French Caribbean and to register for French courses at the Alliance française in Trinité.
“These were the languages [the adults] spoke when they didn’t want the kids to know what they were talking about, ”said Mora-Fodingham.
Tik Tok sensation Stephon Felmine with Michelle Mora-Foderingham
Before her death in 2016, her father regretted not having taught her the language she spoke. This gave Mora-Foderingham the determination to get involved in initiatives to prevent the language and culture from disappearing further.
Mora-Foderingham contacted Nnamdi Hodge, an established patois teacher and researcher, and began learning with him. She thanked Hodge and Dr Jo-Ann S. Ferreira, Head of the Department of Modern Language and Linguistics at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, for their tireless research and development of initiatives to ensure that the language and Creole culture will continue to live on in the 21st century.
For their efforts, Mora-Foderingham, Hodge and Dr Ferreira are featured in the documentary Martinique la 1ère 2016 Trinidad: The last Creole speakers(Trinidad: The Last Speakers of Patois), which covers the native speakers of the language living in Paramin and the means by which it is kept alive.
“Once a language is no longer spoken by children as a mother tongue, it is a sign of the language’s death,” Dr Ferreira said in the documentary.
Mora-Foderingham realized this and started offering classes at Talparo RC Primary School in 2016.
She hired Trinbagonian Tik Toker Stephon Felmine– known for his “Lettre du jour” videos – for making a daily series on patois words.
Mora-Foderingham was impressed with Felmine’s work and his passion for culture.
“There are things you cannot express in standard English that would be lost if you did not express them in Creole,” she said.
She said many of us were already speaking Patois using everyday Trinbagonian phrases like displaced language, djep (pronounced “jep”, meaning Jack Spanish) and zandolée.
“Even the structure of our Trini English is filled with layers (words or expressions literally translated from other languages)”, she recalled, giving I ka fé cho, French It’s hot-literally, “It’s hot” – as an example. “Much has filtered into [Trinbagonian parlance]. “
Talparo RC students in traditional Madras fabric
Mora-Foderingham spoke of the British policy of “anglicization” implemented in the 1800s to eradicate the French language and its derivatives which were then widely spoken in the country as a catalyst for much of the disappearance of the patois.
He was then relegated to rural districts and became known as a pig language (“Pig tongue”) causing ridicule among speakers of the language when entering urban areas.
“When you talk to elders in Patois, they come to life,” she said. “There is a kind of connection that you make with them. “
Mora-Foderingham aims to restore a sense of pride in the language and to eliminate the shame once associated with the patois.
“A lot of people call it ‘broken French’ but there is nothing broken about Patois,” she said. “After generations, it has become a language in its own right. “
She referenced the first Creole grammar guide, The theory and practice of Creole grammar, written by the native of San Fernando, educator John Jacob Thomas and published in the 1860s and the work of the pancreatic organization Banzil Kwéyòl as pioneers in the standardization of writing, spelling and language learning Creole languages.
Mora-Foderingham expressed pride in the work done with the children and congratulated the teachers at Talparo RC for their spirit of collaboration in making the classes a success.
“A lot of young people … are becoming more and more Americanized,” she said, recalling one instance where she used the phrase “toad smoke yuh pipe” with a class of young children and none of them. ‘between them did not know what she meant.
“It’s good to find out what is going on in the world … but we should not be ashamed of what is ours,” she said. “There are certain things that make us Trinbagonians [and] we must preserve and revitalize them.
Mora-Foderingham hopes that the dialect courses will be integrated into the national curriculum.
The concert, which features folk songs, calypso and spoken word, will be broadcast live at 5 p.m. via the Trinidad Patois Speakers Facebook page and stars special guests Soca Elvis, Stephon Felmine, jazz singer Janelle Montigue and David Bereaux.