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Oct 31, 2007

Dictionary establishes Kriol as full fledged language

Story PictureA generation ago most Belizeans—not to mention foreigners—would have characterised Kriol as “bad English.” How times have changed. Thanks to the tireless efforts of a handful of committed activists, Kriol is today ready to take its place as a full and equal partner in Belize’s family of languages. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.

Marion Ali, Reporting
The dancing to traditional Kriol sambai music on the stage at the House of Culture was a fitting prelude to the National Kriol Council’s official introduction of the Kriol – English Dictionary.

Sir Colville Young, Governor General of Belize
“This dictionary will help to convince people these are two separate forms of language. One is Belize Kriol; the other is the Standard English.”

Governor General and pre-eminent Kriol advocate, Sir Colville Young, has been an avid supporter of the Council and has been tirelessly promoting the language since his days as President of the University College of Belize.

Sir Colville Young
“Most Kriol people, even educated Kriol people, will say ah strive, meaning to prosper. A farmer would tell you the chickens were sick but now they’re striving. It’s really “thriving” with the “s” put in front. Now unless we understand the difference between one and the other we cannot speak English properly. And teachers must know the difference between thrive and strive, which really means to struggle.”

Marion Ali
“What does this do for the Kriol culture as such? Does it re-identify us, does it reinforce us, what does it do?”

Myrna Manzanares, President, National Kriol Council
“I think it does all of those things plus what it does; it adds another element of true identity to be able to identify that, yes, this is a language. We always knew it was a language. It has all of the systems that a language has. Kriol has the African gramatic system, right, and we use words from English, the majority of the words are English words, we have Misquito words, we have Spanish words. So what it does it says to the Belize child or the Kriol child or Belizean that, you know what, I am proud, that I can identify because this da my language. I could si what I talk on paper.”

But while publishing the dictionary is one thing, Minister of Education Francis Fonseca says incorporating the document, and by extension, the Kriol language into the school curriculum is the next task of the Council and the Ministry of Education.

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education, Culture
“That’s an issue that the Kriol Project is now sitting down with the Ministry of Education, with QUADS and the Chief Education Officer to discuss, exactly how this dictionary can be used as a tool in the education system. As we pointed out we’re going to give copies of the dictionary to every school so they’ll have it available as a resource in their libraries and through teachers, but the conversation now is about how we can incorporate the dictionary and make it more available, more accessible, and more useful to our teachers.”

And while English will remain the official language taught in schools, Fonseca says the time has come for education to also focus seriously on preserving other languages and their cultures within in the school system.

Francis Fonseca
“Obviously English is the National language of Belize and that must be our first priority. We must be committed to ensuring that all our children in our education system are taught in English and that they learn to speak the English language properly and grammatically because English is a universal language. But that does not take away at all from our commitment to cultures, our commitment to the Kriol language, and to other minority languages, so-to-speak; very important for us to continue to support them, to preserve them and allow them to grow and develop.”

President of the National Institute of Culture and History, Yasser Musa, agrees that because much work has gone into the production of the dictionary an effort will be made to encourage all from an early age to make maximum use of it.

Yasser Musa, President, NICH
“There’s already a lot of hard work that has gone into the dictionary but a book should not remain closed. A book should be opened and used by the children of Belize. We have tens of thousand of kids that need to utilize the information that is in this book so we look now to put forward a programme with the Ministry as well as the Kriol Council to see how effectively we can utilize this dictionary.”

President of the National Kriol Council, Myrna Manzanares, says the Kriol Council has been working closely with schools all along to ensure the effort pays off.

Myrna Manzanares
“The schools come, call and we don’t want only when they have culture week but they will come…just last week we had eighty-seven children coming through here to learn about the Kriol culture so we have always promoting, working with teachers and so, so that will just be the icing on the cake that the curriculum is built.”

Putting together the four hundred and sixty-five page document took the Council more than a decade of steady labour.

Myrna Manzanares
“Gial look ya noa, I kyaahn tell yu di amount a work. We work maaning, noon and night. We di work fi ova ten years now just fi try to formalize da dictionary because da latta tings wid dat. Yu have to ge di word, yu haftu mek shoar dat yu andastan di meaning andastandin, yu haftu mek shoar dat di different region, bikaaz people seh different tings differently, but ih mean di same ting so we haftu check it out. For example wi ga di word “fi”, dat da fi me, dat da fu me, dat da fa me, right. Soh different regions seh da word differently but when we write it, yu haftu mek shoar dat people andastan dat so we put all ah deh entries eena di book.”

Marion Ali
“I went through the dictionary briefly and I already see one word, kyaahn find it at all. Hmm. How yu spell dat?”

Myrna Manzanares
“Ha ha, we mi ga wah discussion bout dat jus di adda day. Hmm…actually dat da wa vocalisation right and how yu spell hmm? Yu haftu look pan hmm…maybe di sound da “m”, hmm…how yu seh hmm bikaaz yu know dat give yu di movement, hmm…[Laughs] so really, I don’t know how to spell it.”

Marion Ali reporting for News Five.

Chief Editor of the dictionary was Paul Crosbie of the Summer Institute of Linguistics of Texas. The book’s driving force was Kriol Council Secretary, Silvana Woods. A copy of it will be distributed to all primary and high schools. The book sells for thirty dollars and is available in book stores across the country.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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