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Dialect speaks volumes


EDITOR: How unfortunate that Minister Straker should have referred to the local dialect as ‘breadfruit talk’ (The News March 3rd) thereby denigrating the language, the fruit of sustenance and, by extension, the ordinary people who are, after all, the creators of cultural heritage. {{more}}

In stating that ‘our dialect will not get you any place’ (incidentally, in Standard English that should be ‘anywhere’) the Minister casts a prejudice on local culture and reinforces the illusion of inferiority on those who speak it.

The local dialect harbours elements of African and Garifuna languages, has its own structures, patterns and rhythms that are carriers of authentic cultural expression. Our poets and literary artists of the region use dialect in their work- Shake Keane, Nobel Prize Winner Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace and many others.

It would be more constructive for our culture and literacy skills if Standard English were taught as a second language in which everyone should become proficient. Most children in Dominica are proficient in three languages- Patois, French and English, easing between languages according to the setting.

If we want our children to be proud of their birthplace, and not desert its shores, surely we must uphold the uniqueness of their local culture rather than reinforce the assumption that ‘foreign is best’.

Vonnie Roudette