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Haiti: You say “tenbal,” I say “gode,” we all speak Creole

Growing up in Port-au-Prince, Sherley Louis, an educator, remembers hearing that it was necessary to be familiar with the version of Creole that compatriots speak in Cap-Haitien. Otherwise, there might be a mild language barrier.

For instance, Port-au-Prince natives use koke or kwoke to say hang. But in Cap-Haitien, it means to be intimate in a romantic sense. Similarly, some northern residents refer to a cup as a tenbal, and Port-au-Prince residents call it gode.

“There are five different dialects,” said Yvon Lamour, a Massassuchets-based educator who founded the Haitian Creole Development Center. “It goes by regions. The meaning assigned to words can be different. Even within the same regions you have a lot of assimilations.”

Lamour is among three Creole language experts taking part in the Little Haiti Book Festival. During the Haitian Heritage Month virtual event, the linguists will discuss differences between the dialects and why those variations in Creole exist throughout Haiti.

“Creole, Creolish: Regionalisms in Haitian Creole” will start Sunday, May 16,  at 11:00 a.m. and can be viewed via the Miami Book Fair website. In addition to Lamour, linguist Jean-Robert Placide will speak during the program. Louis, executive director of Mouvman Kreyòl Institute, will moderate.

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