Submissions:2016/ReHumanizingHaiti or The Role of Technology and Social Media in Language Activism/Advocacy for Historically Undervalued Languages

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#ReHumanizingHaiti or The Role of Technology and Social Media in Language Activism/Advocacy for Historically Undervalued Languages

Community and Education
Academic Peer Review option
Type of submission
Wynnie Lamour
E-mail address
The Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York and New York University
A historically undervalued language is a language that suffers from systemic, social, and cultural degradation, exists in the shadow of a more dominant and socially “acceptable” language, and is spoken by historically disadvantaged and marginalized peoples. Speakers within these historically undervalued linguistic communities are often shamed for speaking their Mother Tongue, while being portrayed as “uneducated”, “unintelligent”, and “unworthy” of participating in mainstream societies. The people of Haiti, speakers of Haitian Creole, or Kreyòl, are part of one such language community that continues to undergo this heavy struggle: how does one overcome the negative stereotype of being a speaker of a historically undervalued language like Haitian Creole and find a sustainable way to positively promote and preserve their language? In Haiti, despite the fact that the vast majority of the Haitian people speak and communicate in Kreyòl, they are often oppressively pushed outside of major spheres of life, such as education, politics, healthcare, etc, as French is the main language in which most affairs are conducted. Reclaiming the power of the Mother Tongue (i.e., Kreyòl) must involve taking the reins of information sharing. Using Social Media platforms (e.g., Wikipedia, Twitter) can center conversations on the use of Krèyol as a tool of empowerment for Haitian people. New York University (NYU) has begun to offer an undergraduate level course in Haitian Creole as part of the Indigenous and Diasporic Language Consortium (IDLC). The course has worked strongly with the WikiEdu platform to produce Wikipedia articles that place Haiti as their focus, contributing tens of thousands of words to Wikipedia. This presentation will focus on the NYU Haitian Creole courses as a case study in using Wikipedia as a tool for language advocacy by #ReCenteringBlackness and #ReHumanizingHaiti, especially in academic spaces of higher-learning that have been historically non-diverse. The presentation will discuss how WikiEdu and Wikipedia were used as platforms for more engagement around Haiti and Haitian Creole, how the organic nature of Social Media reflects the way in which Kreyòl is being used by the Haitian people via an analysis of a "Twitsyonè" (a Kreyòl Twitter dictionary), and how the use of technology serves to empower speakers of Haitian Creole by facilitating more autonomous involvement in the creation and dissemination of information.
Length of presentation
15-30 min. for presentations
Special schedule requests
Preferred room size
25 - 50
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