This visit I brought two new books with me that have been quite the hit. One is “My First English-Haitian Creole Dictionary.” The children LOVE looking through it to find pictures they can name. Each cute illustration has its Angle’ (English) and Creole name: dog/chyen, rain/lapli, flower/fle’, smile/souri. It also has the alphabet, colors and numbers 1-10/youn-dis.
The crazy thing is that it seems to have even more words that they have no clue about like: subway, snow, chimney, magician, lumberjack, lighthouse, lawn mower, hydrant, ice skating! We just ignore those – too difficult to explain 🙂 They love going through the book together, racing to see who can point out what the quickest. They say something with their name which I assume means, “Joubli wants” or “This is MiLove’s.” They also mimic eating the various foods shown. I’ve started a game with it where I’ll say the Angle’ word and the older children have to find the picture. It’s helping ALL of us communicate better.’
And my constant companion in Haiti is now the “Haitian Creole Dictionary and Phrasebook.” It has an extensive list of Creole words with English equivalents, and the reverse. It also has basic grammar and common phrases. A phrase I use now when a child is repeating a word I don’t understand is: Tanpri pwente mo-a nan liv la. (Please point to the word in the book.) This only works with the older children. It’s funny how the younger ones will repeat a word 5-10 times to me even though I keep saying M’ pa konprann (I don’t understand.) But I guess my granddaughter Bella does the same thing 🙂 The older kids usually come to my rescue.
The book has helped immensely with the Mache(walk) issue. Almost daily I’ll head out into the village, escorted by an older child, and bringing along 2 or 3 extra children for fun. They all jostle and beg to be chosen, tugging at me with one hand, pointing at themselves with the other: “Gramma, Beland mache! Felicienne mache! Roman mache!” I have had to keep a list of who’s gone with me, to make sure everyone gets a turn.
Yesterday, I finally used my book to come up with the sentence (many apologies to any grammar teachers out there): Chak timoun mache avek Gramma. (Each child will walk with Gramma!) And I can point to the child with the words, Deja mache (already walked), or mache peta (walk later). Amazing how it calmed them down. Now they smile and say “Jakenda mache peta!”
The workers and older children like searching through my phrasebook also. The gate watchman has copied probably a 100 words into a tiny notebook he carries. He keeps begging to prete li (borrow it.) I will definetly leave the books behind and order more!
Bottom line is though, that the children and I communicate without words more often than not. They often tug at me and say “Gramma Lynn, Gramma!”….then that’s it. I look at them and question, “Oui?” But they just smile. They make it clear they want my attention, that’s all.
Michelda (5) grabbed my chin yesterday when she was laying on my lap. She forced me to have eye contact and then we looked into each other’s eyes for a long, long, precious moment. Much was communicated.
It’s easy being a Gramma.