By Daniel Coto for Apnews

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The elementary school student stood up, pulled down her face mask and leaned into the microphone. She swallowed hard before trying to spell the word “discover” in French Creole.

“D-E-K-O-V-I” she tried as she clasped her hands behind her back while standing in front of a row of gleaming trophies.

Seconds later, the teacher announced: “Sorry, that’s incorrect.” The word, she said, is “dékouvè.”

The student pursed her lips and sat down, temporarily felled at a Creole spelling bee in the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica. Her difficulty with the language is far from unique on the tiny nation, which is trying to preserve and promote that centuries-old creation by Africans who melded their original tongues with those of the European plantation owners who held them in slavery.

Kwéyòl, as it’s known in Dominica, is one of many Creole variants spoken on more than a dozen Caribbean islands — complex cultural creations that were long considered informal, inferior and broken languages spoken by uneducated people. Continue reading

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