Cultural Competency and Haitian Immigrants


Communication ... page 1

Purnell's Model

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  Page 5

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Family roles & organization
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Workforce issues

Biocultural ecology

High-risk behaviors

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Death rituals

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Health care practices
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Health care practitioners




The official languages of Haiti are French and Creole.
  • French has always been the language of business, and Creole, the language of the people. Creole was only accepted as an official language in 1987.21, 28, 29, 30 

  • Haitian Creole is derived from a pidgin. A pidgin is a simplified form of a base language with parts of other languages added. Pidgins are often used by sailors, pirates, and other trades to fulfill specific communication needs. Because they are limited in structure, pidgins are never spoken as a first language. When a pidgin evolves into a native language it becomes a creole language.21

  • The origin of Haitian Creole is not certain. One theory asserts that Creole was created by slaves combining their African dialects with the French spoken by their white owners.28 Others site its influences as Spanish, African, English, and Portuguese.21 

  • Creole is spoken by the majority of Haitians,  while only about 10% of the population can communicate in French.21 However, French is still valued by all Haitians and is an indicator of social class. In years past, even those who spoke only Creole were reluctant to allow Creole to be taught in the schools. The feeling was that if their children could speak French, they would have a better chance to elevate their position in society. This is evident by the late acceptance (1987) of Creole as an official language.4, 15, 21, 27, 28  

  •  Because Creole is viewed as the language of the poor, most Haitians will claim to be able to speak French.21 If Haitians do speak French, they will initiate conversations in French with persons unfamiliar to them. To suggest that someone only speaks Creole, even if they do only speak Creole, can be construed as an insult.27

  • Creole is seldom written.21, 36 Not until 1979 was there a Creole spelling system recognized by the government.4, 21, 27 

  • According to 2002 statistics, the literacy rate of Haitians is 45%.14 This low rate is a result of poor access to schools as well as the late acceptance of Creole as a written language.

--> Communication Pg. 2

link to Haitian Creole/English/Haitian Creole downloadable dictionary

link to Haitian Creole/English/Haitian Creole online dictionary

Copyright  2003