Bonjou! Learn to Speak Haitian Creole

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

How to Study Haitian Creole Independently Parts I - III. This Article was written by Dory Piccard Dickson Thanks Dory :)

How to Study Haitian Creole Independently
Parts I - III



I am a unique learner;
I have reasons to study Creole,
  but they are not the same reasons as anybody else's.

Unfortunately, I do not have Haitian neighbors
   to practice with.
I want to have fun
   when I study.

Oh, how I wish to feel smart
   and to see progress,
      even if I am only learning
      a few new words at a time.
I'm a senior citizen;
   often I have to learn the same words
   over and over.

It has taken me
   a long time,
   a long, long time
      to speak Creole,
      just a few sentences
         with pronunciation
         Haitian speakers can understand.

As a retired teacher
   and a former student
   of other languages,
I began studying Creole
   with an expectation
   that the right learning materials
      were out there,
      if I could ONLY find them!
I had to learn the hard way
   that there are not many books
   about learning Creole
      which are designed
      for the independent student
         like me...

I learned that this is because
   Creole was NOT
   a written language
      until the 1960's
      or by some accounts
         the 1980's.
I was not looking
   for a phrase book;
I was not planning
   to visit Haiti.

There are migrant camps
   here in New Jersey.
Every summer the camps fill up
   with workers who travel here
   from Florida.

They come to pick blueberries,
   to earn money,
   to sustain themselves
      and their families
      down in Florida
        or back in Haiti.
Many of these workers
   speak Creole,
but do not speak
   enough English
   to communicate.
I wanted to learn
   to speak and read and write
      to connect
      with these migrant workers.
If I could listen to recordings,
  (cassette tapes or CD's)
  I would learn
      how to pronounce things
so my voice
   would rise and fall
   at the right times
      in a word, a phrase
      or a sentence,
         as I spoke...


I can recommend to you
   three things,
   even if
your needs and interests
   are different from mine.
FIRST, go to the library.
See if they have the CD packet:
   Pimsleur's Haitian Creole.
It will have only the first ten
   of the thirty lessons available.
Each lesson is 25 - 30 minutes long.
You might listen more than once.
When you finish the first ten lessons,
   you'll have to decide
   whether to buy the 30-lesson set.
Try to get it second-hand.
I recommend the Pimsleur Program
   because it goes at a nice pace,
   introducing vocabulary
      and grammar
      a little at a time.
This program ALSO
   repeats new words
   at intervals
      PROVEN by research
      to ACCELARATE learning.
You will see, it really does!
SECOND, go to Amazon.Com
and order yourself the book
   Haitian Creole for Speakers of English.
I endorse this book
   absolutely and wholeheartedly!
The lessons take you
   step by step
   along the path
      to learn how to say
      the things you want to express.
The exercises help you learn.
Use the answer key in the back.
A terrific glossary
   will help you
   when you want to compose
The author has posted on line
   recordings of the dialogs
   and some of the exercises
      in this book.
I like this book;
   it's my favorite one!


THIRD, go to Amazon.Com
   and order yourself the materials
   by Wally Turnbull: Creole Made Easy.
The CD has SHORT SHORT lessons,
   some only six to ten minutes long.
That's great when you're driving;
   you can coax yourself
   to at least
      listen to ONE lesson.
Studying one lesson a day, day after day,
   adds up.
The book will help you
   picture the words,
so you'll begin learning
   how to spell things.
If you like,
   buy Betty Turnbull's
   Creole Made Easy Workbook,
which expands on the material
   covered in the book and CD.

You might want to explore
   these things, too:

The only dictionary I like to use
     is expensive, but
        IF you can afford it -
and definitely cheap
   when compared with the cost
   of tuition for a college course
      or the cost of a personal translator...
This is it: Bryant Freeman's Haitian-English Dictionary,
   which is one gigantic volume,
and a companion three-volume set
   comprising his English-Haitian Dictionary.

It's nice to have something small
   to carry around
   like the McGraw Hill
      Haitian Creole Phrasebook,
but just use that for dessert -
   especially when you're looking
   for topical word lists.
You shouldn't begin your studies
   with only a phrasebook,
because your pronunciation
   will suffer!



Here are some more things
   I want to tell you:
(Forgive me please
   for this unsolicited advice.)
Some books I used
   although they made me grumble.

   Ann Pale Kreyòl (with accompanying CD's):
I got to Chapter 20,
   of 25 chapters.
Maybe I'll study it again one day.
But not today.
It's because I'm an older learner,
   and my brains are so mature
   they've gotten TIRED.
I'm no longer capable
   of learning so many new words
   gallopy-trot, at a VERY quick pace.

Ann Pale Kreyòl
   introduces words and words and words.
Maybe that'd be okay
   if I were a lot younger.
At this stage in my life,
   it's just discouraging,
and discouragement is to be avoided
   if I want to stay motivated
   and focused.
But you may find this book suits
   your taste and your needs.
Pawòl Lakay (with accompanying CD):
   I got half-way through Chapter 4,
   out of eight chapters.
Once again,
   vocabulary came at me
   at a terrific pace
to which
   I was not equal.
But you may find this book suits
   your taste and your needs.
Guide to Learning Haitian Creole (with accompanying CD):
    I got only as far as the first lesson.
The authors must have thought
   that no one would study Creole
   without a teacher,
or that students would be willing
   to look up translations
   for all the Creole vocabulary words.
That takes too much time for me.
I want the vocabulary lists,
If you have a teacher,
   you might want to try this book.

Spoken Haitian Creole For Intermediate Learners: 
   Really, I may almost be ready for this book...
   after three years
      of introducing myself
         to Creole.
I cannot grumble, since I have not yet
   tried the lessons.
It is assumed that,
   as an intermediate student,
   I will already have
      some basic vocabulary.
There's a good glossary in the back.
I'll use it.

There are other books, too,
   for when I have acquired more vocabulary.
Mosochwazi Pawòl Ki Ekri an Kreyòl Ayisyen:
   This pleasingly thick book
      appears to contain
      poems and short stories
         and essays and more.

Everything is in Creole.
Maybe I could dip into it
   just a little at a time,
   sitting at my kitchen table
with my Creole-English dictionary.



Let me say:

As an older learner,
   but indefatigable,
I find
   I can study
   the same lessons
      over and over.
Each time through,
   I get a little faster,
   a little more sure of myself.

Each time through
   I build a stronger conduit
   for the words
      in my brain -
so that I might retrieve them
   with less difficulty
   when expressing myself
or when listening to others.
I'm on my way!
By Dory Piccard Dickson
     Haitian Migrant Worker Outreach
         New Jersey
         May, 2013

Check out Dory's Overview of Independent Study Materials
  for Haitian Creole
on her Haitian Migrant Worker Outreach blog


Haitian Creole ↔ English Reference, Look up Haitian Creole and English Words


  1. Sa se yon bon atik! M renmen tout bagay sòf youn...Madanm Dickson te di nou nan atik sa a ki sete otè chak liv yo sòf youn. Li pa t di nou ke se w' Mandaly ki te otè liv 'Haitian Creole for English Speakers" la.

    M fèk achte liv ou lan, Mandely. M' kwè ou merite kredi tankou tout lòt otè yo.

    Kout chapo!

    1. Aww... Mèsi anpil wi. M panse Kreyòl ou twò avanse pou liv sa a :)

  2. Mesi anpil, SonEjai. Thank you for your very kind words. I will think about your comment. I agree it would be appropriate to include Mandaly's name. I'm sure she will edit it, if I ask.

  3. ShonEjai,
    I love what you wrote on your profile page, introducing yourself! I have to update my computer, as I am unable to connect with the email button for this site, for many other sites, too.

    1. Ms. Dory,
      It was nice to read your article. I too am a very (very) independent leaner, so much so that it is almost to my detriment. My strategy was simply to read Creole Made Easy, which took a few days, and then dive straight into reading the online newspaper Lavwadlamerik. I do have some of the other books but I found I just couldn't use them.

      Again great article!

  4. Very helpful. Thanks for posting this Ms. Dory.

  5. You're very welcome, Javier.
    Soon I'll send in a little description of each of the learning materials mentioned.
    By the way, you have my FAVORITE Spanish name! I remember when I hauled open tubs of tomatoes for Panella Trucking, out of Stockton, CA, one of the other truck drivers was named Javier. I don't think I ever met him, but I heard him calling in questions over the 2-way radio which we kept tuned in to our dispatcher.

  6. Dory, nice piece you wrote. That's how we, independent learners, do it. I'm also thinking of taking a 6 or 8-weeks Creole course while in Haiti if time permits.
    Unfortunately the Bryant Freeman Haitian-English dictionary is not available for purchase any place that I know of. I saw it on Amazon about a couple of years ago and was dragging my feet about buying it because it was so pricey. I opted for a smaller and cheaper dictionary which was not a wise choice for my medical work in Haiti.

    I wonder if you had bought yours second-hand. Other than the major online stores, are there any other trustsworthy places for buying Haitian Creole used books (novels, dictionaries, etc...)?

    1. I called the University of Kansas bookstore. They might have transferred me to another department, so if you have a problem, get back to me.
      Go to:

    2. In Little Miami, I visited the book shop Libreri Mapou. Jan Mapou and his wife have a website, too, but it is very pleasant to actually visit the shop and there is parking on the street right in front.
      In Brooklyn, I visited Rincher's Book Shop. I have the business card for this husband & wife establishment, too. I'll try to add the contact information soon.

  7. <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
    Call Jayhawk, Inc. to order the Bryant Freeman Haitian English and English Haitian dictionaries. Current prices: Softback volumes $45 each, for a total of $270 for the complete six volume set. No tax if shipped outside of Kansas. Shipping for orders of $250 to $500 is $9.95.
    (The Haitian to English volume which came out originally in one hardback volume, is now only available as a three volume softback set, the same as the English to Haitian set.)
    Contact Jayhawk Inc. at: 785-864-4640

  8. Very nice compilation--as you know, there aren't many resources out there for HC. And far fewer 10 years ago when I started studying HC. This is probably one of the few 'guides' out there for learning Creole. Thank you, Jess

  9. Thanks, Jess,
    It's interesting how different each of us is, in response to the challenges of learning a new language, especially those of us who are getting up in years. I really admire what Shon Ejai did; see her May 6 comment about how she learned.
    I wonder how YOU began your studies... -Dory

  10. I started by reading and listening to Bryant Freeman's Survival Creole book. Then a few years later I did Creole Made Easy (which really gave me some competence I never had), then I listened to Pimsleur 1-30 lessons. Those I found to be less useful, but still taught me some words and usage I had not seen anywhere else. Jess

  11. Oh, I found Pimsleur lessons to be invaluable, because the more times I listen, the more automatically words come to me, when I need them. Also, my pronunciation is sometimes so good (for an American) that Haitians want to know WHERE I learned Creole. At least, by the tone of the question, I feel it's a compliment. Dory



    * Libreri Mapou, 5919 NE 2nd Ave., Miami FL 33137, Phone: 305-757-9922

    *Rincher's Bookstore, 826 Rogers Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11226, Phone: 718-282-4033


  12. Hi!
    Does someone among people who made comments under this article have book Spoken Haitian Creole: For Intermediate Learners
    I wanted to buy it, but it's virtually unavailable on the net.
    I have read somewhere that book is very entertaining and really good learning material.

    1. Please refer to Dory's website. It's very informative and you can ask her questions too at the Haitian Migrant worker outreach blog.

  13. Mandaly, youn kesyon ..I can buy Pawol Lakay: Haitian-Creole Language and Culture for Beginner and Intermediate Learners on amazon for 60 bucks overall...please, tell me is it worth of buying it? I cannot judge coz they didn't offer sample of it...Thanks!

  14. Dory isn't answering, looks like hasn't been active on her blog for a while, unfortunately...If you ever seen that Pawol Lakay book I would appreciate to hear few words from your perspective...Thank you, Manda

  15. Mandaly, is there any way to contact Dory coz she seems not to be active, either on facebook or on her own blog?

  16. Hi Sadrak zanmi m, the best way to contact Dory is via her email address at Please let her know that I gave you the email. I'll also give her your info.

    Pase bon jounen :)