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4 Reasons Why French and Haitian Creole AREN’T Interchangeable

french interpretation

Nestled on the island of Hispaniola, Haiti is known for its beautiful beaches, rich cultural heritage, and resilient people. Yet due to the triple tragedy of natural disasters, gang violence, and COVID-19, thousands of Haitians are fleeing their homeland. Even those who make it to the U.S. still face shurdles before establishing a permanent home. One of those hurdles? The lack of access to Haitian Creole interpreters.

Although French is an official language of Haiti, only 5 to 10% of Haitians are functionally bilingual in both languages. And while Haitian Creole traces its roots back to French, they aren’t mutually intelligible. That means French interpreters are typically unable to accurately interpret for Haitian Creole speakers.

French vs. Haitian Creole

Haitian Creole wouldn’t exist without French. In fact, the two languages share about 90% of the same vocabulary. Yet Haitian Creole differs from contemporary French in several significant ways. Here are just four:

  • Pronunciation. Haitian Creole is based on 17th Century French, which is why pronunciation differs from contemporary French.
  • Vocabulary. Haitian Creole vocabulary has been influenced by Spanish, Portuguese, West African languages—and more recently—English. Many cognates also have different meanings.
  • Grammar. Verbs aren’t conjugated in Haitian Creole. The tense is understood based on the presence or absence of a tense marker that precedes the verb. Genders for nouns are also largely absent.
  • Spelling. Haitian Creole has its own orthography.

Given these major differences, it’s easy to see why a French interpreter would struggle when working with a Haitian Creole speaker. The problem lies in the fact that there are roughly 274 million French speakers worldwide compared to 10 to 12 million Haitian Creole speakers.

Haitian Creole and Remote Interpreting

Fortunately, remote interpreting options have made it easier than ever to connect with a Haitian Creole interpreter, regardless of location. Both over-the-phone (OPI) and video remote  interpreting (VRI) serve as fast, affordable alternatives to onsite sessions. With remote interpreting, you can connect with a Haitian Creole interpreter in minutes—which is especially important in settings such as healthcare. It can also help you assist Haitians who need to access legal aid, social services, and more.

With the Boostlingo Unified Interpretation Platform, you not only gain access to OPI and VRI options, but the Boostlingo Professional Interpreting Network (BPIN) as well. Haitian Creole is just one of over 200 languages available, and that includes On-Demand 24/7 service for OPI. (We recommend pre-scheduling VRI calls.)

Think Boostlingo may be right for you? Contact us today to start your free trial!

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