THE KREOL LANGUAGE IN SEYCHELLES
By Jean-Claude, Pascal MAHOUNE (Anthropologist)
“ The “linguistic chaos” which resulted from the introduction of some thousands of slaves from many diferent parts of Africa and Madagascar speaking no language in common and unable to converse with their owners was eventually solved by the “invention” of Creole…”(Webb 1964:36)!!!
Throughout the colonial period (1770-1977), the kreol language in Seychelles was described as a patois. One visitor to the colony in 1892, Captain Kenedy, wrote that the language of the people was “a french patois of bad French”. Another visitor in 1895, Mr. Charles Anastas stated:
‘La langue la plus usitée aux Seychelles est la langue française. Les personnes qui n’ont pas reçu de l’instruction parlent le patois créole formé de français altéré,mêlé ā une foule de termes et d’expressions empruntés aux idiomes cafre, malgache, indien…”(Bradley 1940:299)
Roy Lewis who is said to have written much on Creole in Sierra Leone would agree that the Creole spoken in Seychelles is a language in its own right.
“It is an honest, thorough, and comprehensive reconstruction of French from its roots to suit African requirements and idiom.It contains within itself an African accomodation to western civilization. It is not an impoverished dialect which is insusceptible of precision of meaning, it has a full set of words or expressions for casual or conditional events, and Creole speakers are able to express themselves adequately anf fluently in all matters affecting their daily lives(Webb 1964:44)
“All articles in future submitted for censorship should be written in English or French language, since it is impossible for the Censors to cope with articles written in the totally unintelligible language which passes as creole”. (A letter from the Governor’s office on 21 November 1939). ” (Bradley 1940:299)
Since the beginning of that century a Seychellois teacher from Anse Boileau,Miss Rodolphine Young who died in 1932, had already written a cathecism in kreol and translated some forty nine(49) famous fables of Jean de Lafontaine in seychellois kreol for the moral education of the kreol children
The census of 1960 indicated that it had become the mothertongue of 94 % of the population.
“It is used exclusively by more than 90% of the population in all private informal situations, conversations within the family, with friends and colleagues, on social occasions, in shops, in the school playground, at the doctor’s and so on. It is used for broadcasts everyday, and is now used in some churches-the Bible is being translated in creole, religion is being taught in creole. Most public speeches are in creole-at the recent ceremony for the opening of the New Port, all speeches were translated in creole”(Bollée 1977:13).
The Seychelles Bulletin(26 July 1974) reported that the Chief Minister of Seychelles in a speech at the presentation of what was described as the first book published in kreol(“Levangile Saint Marc”) said that:
“…soon the Minister for Social Services would be appointing a committee to look into the question of language in relation to the future of education in Seychelles…”
Danielle d’Offay, noted at that time that there was a gradual change in the attitude of people towards creole. The switch from French or English to creole used to imply some form of superior/inferior relationship, she noted, and people were ashamed to be heard speaking creole and children would be punished for using creole in school.
“L’emploi du créole dans les écoles et pour l’alphabétisation des jeunes seychellois présuppose l’établissement d’une orthographe officielle qui soit ā la fois linguistiquement fondée et socialement acceptable…..les seychellois ont toujours réussi ā écrire leur langue “ā la française”…négligeant les différences de structure entre le français et le créole”(Bollée 1977:15).
Webb noted that some will always militate against the development of Creole into a written language with a literature of its own.
“….to attempt to eradicate it as some now advocate…would…be a deprivation of the great and notable achievement of our “black” population since wrested from their ancestral homes…the tradition of oral kreol as a mother tongue should surely be encouraged to continue strong and living in the homesteads; for it enshrines the songs and language of childhood, of the plantations, of love and courtship, of the wisdom of the wise, of family reunion.Above all it stands as a monument to how one section of humanity, struck down by adversity, rose to creative stature. It deserves at least our tolerance and our respect”.(Webb 1964:44).