I must say that I was blessed to be born into a family with a rich, cultural background. Unlike some of my friends, I learned French and Creole and surprisingly I am very fluent in both languages. Not many people know how I fluent I am, so I love to surprise them. I especially love surprising the Haitian children and parents from my class.
Since I use my married name at work, it takes a while for the parents and children to find out about my background. I usually like to let the parents talk junk about me and then hit them with my little secret. I listen to the children speak their “secret language” and drop the bomb when I reprimand them in their native tongue. I actually find it very amusing.
I am a second grade teacher and work with the ESL children in that grade level. The Haitian children in my class already know that I can speak Creole. From time to time, they will speak to me in Creole. They also love the fact that their teacher can understand where they are coming from. It’s not often that they come across a teacher who can really relate to them. I have four Haitian children in my class this year. Three of them are girls and they act like “madam nan mache kap fe feze” (women in the market causing trouble or spreading gossip).
Today, one of the little boys in my class (we’ll call him James) was whining and screaming, “Stooooooooooop iiiiiiiiiiiiit! I don’t want to heeeeeeeaaaaaaaaar iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! Stop being nas-teeeeeeeeee!” Of course, the whining was really irking my nerves, so I asked what the problem was. James responds, “Bianca is being nasty! She keeps talking about girls’ body parts in Haitian.”
Of course, I used this as a teachable moment and told James that “Haitian” is not a language. I told him she was speaking Creole and then asked him what she said. Of course he became very embarrassed and was afraid to tell me what was said. I reassured him that he would not get in trouble and asked him to tell me what she said. I know he knew what it meant because he looked around to make sure no one was close by and whispered it to me.
“She said, boubounne kale.” (which means shaved <insert name of female body part here>)
At this time, my eyes got wide and I responded, “Excuse me?!?!?!”
James repeated it again.
It took me a minute to recover from James’s response and I was speechless, for a few reasons!
1.) I couldn’t believe this little girl was teaching the kids to say nasty things in Creole!
2.) I couldn’t believe James knew exactly what it meant!
3.) How long could this have been going on under my nose?!?!?!
Well, after meeting with James, I met with my three cackling hens and two of them were quick to sell the culprit out!
Unbelievable! I must admit that I had been laughing hysterically all day over the incident. I am not going to say I was an angel. I did my fair share of speaking “my secret language” with my Haitian friends in school too.
Growing up Haitian in the 80’s was a little difficult for me. The other kids used to make fun of me and act as though I had the plague at times. I never understood it and still don’t. I guess it was just ignorance. However, my Haitian friends and “my secret language” made it a lot easier. I felt like there was safety in numbers and somehow it all made it easier to ignore the teasing. The best part of it all was that I could talk about them in another language and none would be the wiser. I have to admit that it doesn’t bother me when I see my “madam nan mache ap fe feze“. I know they already feel at a disadvantage because they don’t speak the language. I’m sure it makes them feel good to know that there are other children to bond with. And perhaps when things get a little rough, they know they can always run to their teacher and she’ll understand. As quiet as it’s kept, I feel a special bond with those three little girls. I look at them and my mind takes me back to those early elementary grades when I had my own little Haitian Posse. Although part of me was mortified over the incident today, I must admit it did bring back some happy memories of my childhood.
Did you ever teach your non-Haitian classmates bad words when you were in school? Do you like to use your “secret language” among non-creole speakers?