On The Language, Mauritian Creole (MC)

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sun May 18 16:24:49 UTC 2008

On The Language, Mauritian Creole (MC)


A Creole language is one born out a contact/collision between two or
more languages. In its initial stage it is called a pidgin, a language
with limited resources, but when it becomes the L1 (first language,
mother tongue) of a group it is becomes a Creole language, a language
which satisfies the linguistic and cultural needs of the group of
native speakers.

If at the origin of our language, Mauritian Creole (MC) there was the
presence of French and some African language, it is now safe to say
that when the British took over Mauritius and later indentured
labourers from India were brought in, the Creole language which had
developed entered a new phase of repidginisation as a result of
contact with English and Bhojpuri specially. Two phonemes (sounds used
to generate words) not found in French carved a niche into the
language. They are represented in 'Grafi Larmoni' by the grapheme 'j'
as in 'jos' (pleasure with a sexual overtone), 'jal' (cymbals),
'jalsa' (great fun), 'job' (a job) and by the grapheme 'ch' as in
'chacha' (uncle), 'chombo' (hold tight), 'chichi' (exclamation of
disgust), 'cholo' (idiot/moron), 'chalta' (a fruit).  After a brief
period of repidginisation to adapt to the new reality, the language
went through a rapid process of accelerated creolisation to finally
become today the L1 of roughly 80% of the population, the L2 (a second
language) of the remaining 20% and the de-facto (not de-jure) national
language. This is the reason why it is believed that it should be
renamed 'Morisien' (Mauritian) for Mauritius and 'Rodrige' (Rodriguan)
for Rodrigues. If creolisation was a stage in the evolution of the
language, it has now reached a new stage: the symbol of nationhood for
Mauritius and Rodrigues. Hence it would be advisable in due course,
when there is a consensus, to give the language its rightful name.

Mauritian Creole (Mc) and English Bilingualism

We are very lucky in the Republic of Mauritius to have the two most
dynamic and vital languages, MC and English, which are both Creole
languages, as the national and official language respectively.
Consequently the passage from the national language to the official
language can be smooth and highly productive. Yes, English is also a
Creole language. A contrastive analysis of the grammar of the two
languages will make this clear.

Both languages have only two tenses: past and non-past.

In both languages the future is indicated by either a modal [(will,
'll) (pou or ava/va)] or by an adverb of time. 'Tomorrow I'm going to
Rodrigues' or 'Tomorrow I'll go to Rodrigues'; 'Dime mo pe al Rodrig'
ou 'Dime mo pou al Rodrig'.

Both languages use aspect markers to define clearly the contours of
verbs. This grammatical feature is inexistent in French which is
forced to use periphrases. Look at these examples: 'I eat/I am
eating/I have eaten.' (Mo manze/Mo pe manze/Mo finn manze.)

French grammaticalises gender whereas in MC and English gender is sex-based.

If at surface level MC appears to be close to French, at a deeper
level there are great grammatical facilitators to ease the journey
from MC to English. This is why Mauritians learn English faster than
French although they are less exposed to it.

MC/English bilingualism is not only essential to all Mauritians; it is
also something which can easily be acquired.

MC in School
The Republic of Mauritius boasts of a high level of literacy (approx.
90% according to official figures[1]). This is very far from the truth
specially if we consider that in today's world basic literacy is
vastly inadequate and the national aim should be UNIVERSAL FUNCTIONAL
LITERACY. A generous but reliable figure would be closer to 25% of the
population having mastered functional literacy. In spite of heavy
public and private investments in education we have lost the battle
against illiteracy. Why? Simply because we have the most absurd
language policy in the world. We expect children of 5 to be able to
learn to read, write and count in 3 foreign languages simultaneously
(English, French and an ancestral language -- Hindi, Urdu, Mandarin,
Arabic, Tamil, Telegu or Marathi) when they have not yet fully
mastered their L1 which is not a medium of instruction and is used
only as a support language when communication breaks down.

The PREVOKBEK  course devised for children who have failed the end of
primary schooling course exam (CPE) twice and are non-literate and
non-numerate after 7 years of schooling has shown beyond any doubt
that L1 literacy (MC) and L2 literacy (English) can be quickly
achieved through the right language policy and a pedagogy which makes
good use of the cultural resources of the child.

The Afrokreols In All That
To ensure truth, justice and reconciliation we must empower the
wretched of the earth. Empowerment means among other things the right
education and the right education cannot take place if the language of
the child is ignored. We must aim at L1 literacy and MC/English
bilingualism. The following decisions could quickly be made.

The PREVOKBEK principles, methodology, pedagogy should without delay
be introduced in all prevocational classes run by all educational
authorities. If parents from other ethnic groups have other
preferences, at least AfroKreol parents and children should have
access to a course which will definitely generate dignity,
self-confidence and a strong foundation on which the future can be

The IVTB should adopt MC/English oral and written bilingualism to
allow Prevok graduates (female and male) to follow training courses.
Again. If parents from other ethnic groups have other preferences, at
least AfroKreol parents and children should have access to a course
which will definitely generate dignity, self-confidence and a strong
foundation on which the future can be built.

L1 literacy and numeracy together with literacy and numeracy in
English should become the hard core of primary education. All other
subjects should be optional and non-examinable. AND AGAIN. If parents
from other ethnic groups have other preferences, at least AfroKreol
parents and children should have access to a course which will
definitely generate dignity, self-confidence and a strong foundation
on which the future can be built.

We have already wasted too much time due to our short-sightedness and
prejudices. Please let us not waste time anymore. At least let us
start to offer these facilities to the AfroKreols for whom MC is an
ancestral language, a mother tongue and a national language. Father
Gregoire was applauded when he proposed this on Thursday 01.05.08. Let
us all support him for in his wisdom are the fruits of peace and
development for one and all.

Dev Virahsawmy
The authorities confuse schooling with literacy. They think that all
those who've been to school are literate. Moreover they use a
Victorian definition of literacy: a person, who can painfully scribble
a few signs called a signature, is literate. Literacy is a different
thing. It means more sophisticated creative, dynamic and progressive


The Plight of the Small Time Mauritian Worker

I have often wondered what our dear Mauritian writers are up to
nowadays. They must all be oh so busy writing about horticulture,
about 'le salon de la maison and du jardin' and other nonsensical
events that no one really remembers the next business day. None of
these will ever raise questions, none will be shocked, none will get
down on the streets with such goody feel goody writing. I have no care
in the world about good old sanitized Mauritian literature. I demand
to be shocked. I demand to be made to think. So when when when when
will someone back home get his/her acts together and write about,
ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the topic once and for all…
'the plight of the small time Mauritian worker'. A guaranteed best
seller, and that too worldwide!

No one writes about them, this sorry forgotten lot. Feels like time
himself put them in a closet. The closet of lost dreams, lost causes.
I dream of a book on our village folks who work in the five-star
hotels along the littoral. Prakash, Sylvain, Jacques, Paul, Anand,
Bebette, Bomzol, any of them as long as I hear their voices, as long
as I listen to their stories told to me without bollywoodisation,
without hollywoodisation. Just a plain voice telling me about a simple
rich life. The life of a guy or gal who lives for work early in the
morning, takes a couple of connecting buses, and arrives at the hotel,
to get the honour to "serve" the whole day. A return to colonial
servility my friend, and then to end with the cherry on the cake, he
finally earns a terrible disgusting pittance. A spit in the face of
our soi-disant free state. Thank you, Mr Prime Minister, merci merci.
Modern colonization is still very much present like our shadow, but we
do not seem bothered about it anymore.

Since the days of Independence, successive political units (MMM,
Labour, PMSD) have often used the following marketing pitch, "The
tourism industry will change Mauritius, there will be jobs à go-go, we
will have a wild and sudden increase of foreign exchange, and
prosperity will be back before we know it." King Sugar is so dead.
Long live King Sugar! Yes it created jobs. But what the public has
completely missed out, possibly because we had assumed that the words
of some dinosaurs will always ring true. That tourism is such a great
thing. No one had bothered to notice the invisible lot of servile and
oppressed slaves that the system has created in the process. The
invisible ones. The slave waiters of the industry. They earn a
pittance (what is it Rs 2000 per month), when the daily rate of a room
is double, triple, quadruple this. Note I said the DAILY rate.

Last time when I was back home this debate was raging.
Government official: They have to share the profit. This little close
circuit of families that own most of the valued lands around the
coast, the cinq étoiles hotels and all, they need to pay back. Return
the profits to the masses, let them prosper.
Representative of the rich hotels: Don`t we give back to them? We fund
gardens, we hire taxis, we employ people, we wash laundry, we block
and seal the golden beaches and make them exclusive to the folks from
Germany and Sweden. Yeah we need them these folks from Europe.

I listened in rapt, enclosed in myself. But you Mr Representative of
the hotel. Mr Rich guy with a house along the coast blessed with a
private beach. What you have created is pittance, slavery of the
masses. You have kept the juice to yourself and created a whole bunch
of people with the following job description: Wash glass and plates,
draw curtain, sweep floor, drive rich tourists to airport, sing sega
and entertain rich tourist, prostitute themselves, clean car, walk on
golf course with rich tourist, drive rich tourists to the hotel, etc…

They just do not get it. Do they? They don't. They keep the juice for
themselves and give the bagasse to the ignorant public. In the memory
of the great ones, the maroons, who jumped to their death at Le Morne
many decades ago. They jumped to avoid a life of captivity, of
morosity. Somebody please ask them the following: Time has come to pay
back messieurs, build schools messieurs, fund universities messieurs,
let the locals rule. Give them the money. For god's sake, let them
rise above the shit!

Rattan Gujadhur


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list