It is often said in Haiti that when Creole is spoken, it is readily understood. When a misunderstanding arises people would wonder how that could be possible and say:” Was it not Creole that I spoke to you”. These statements are not only said because other languages spoken in Haiti are less widely understood but because common Creole speech uses techniques that are well known to facilitate communication. The clarity imbedded in how we speak is a longstanding Haitian Heritage. So long that it precedes the creation of the Haitian State. The clarity and effectiveness of Haitian speech goes all the way back to Ginen.
Creole owes much of its vocabulary to 17th century Nantes French as it was the people from Nantes and not those from Paris who dominated the commerce of people as slaves. However, Creoles grammar is largely derived from the Gedevi Dahomean language. Such words as men, pye, and tèt for hand, foot and head are all derived from French. The plural indicator yo is Dahomean. So when we say men yo, pye yo, tèt yo for their hands, their foot and their heads we are using a parallel Dahomean construct for indicating plurality.
Vocabulary and grammar aside, the clarity of speech recognized in Creole speakers goes beyond issues related to its grammar and vocabulary. The clarity emerged from the images, the terse statements, and the repetitiveness built in our speech and that is a gift from those who came before us, our foreparents, our Ancestors. During the 17th century, foreign travelers to the West Coast of Africa noted that people of Ginen spoke in a very picturesque way filled with proverbs. Such manner of speaking has remained the core of how we speak today. For example to say that I am hungry, we would say mwen grangou. This way of saying it avoids the French word Faim for hungry and preferentially paints the image of hunger as having large taste. Even the common response for I am well which is m ap boule achieves the same. That expression paints the picture of a persistent flame full of energy.
This kind of effective communication was at the root of the successful advertisement for the Energizer battery that kept going and going and going. The success of the Energizer commercial was based both on capturing the image of a bunny that would not stop its activity and the advertisement added emphasis by repeating the words going and going and going. It did this within a few short seconds of television advertisement. This advertisement worked because it did for Hollywood what Creole speakers do daily to communicate effectively. We speak tersely, we paint images with our words, and we repeat ourselves. A Creole speaker could seek to convince a person of his or her love by saying, “se pa ti renmen mwen renmen w”. The word love is repeated in the phrase and adds clarity and intensity to it. Repetition is good, prompting Joseph J. Romm to say, if you want to be heard, you must repeat. Such repetition is embedded in Shakespeare’s quote “to be or not to be, that is the question”.
The picturesque way of speaking in Creole is imbedded in the numerous proverbs that spices our speech. Take for example the proverb warning that one’s ability to hear should not overwhelm the need to process the information. This is said as: fòk zòrèy ou pa pi gwo pase tèt ou. Creole’s clarity is often said to be as clear as coconut water: Klè kou dlo kòk.
In his recently published masterful work LanguageIntelligence, Joseph J Romm noted that carving images with speech, repetition, and concise statements are the essential parts of effective communication. When Mr. Romn wrote this book in 2012, he could have easily entitled it: Pouki Kreyòl pale Kreyòl Konprann.