I have used a lot of resources to learn HC over the years. I'll start with the ones from which I have received the most benefit. Most of these are free and legal.
Learning Haitian Creole has been very gratifying for me. Along with learning Djudeo-espanyol (Ladino) and Lesser Antilles French Creole, it has made me a better learner. I'm able to search better for resources and make better use of what I do
have, even if it is not (usually far
from) ideal. Being able to speak and understand Kreyòl has given me an insight into a unique and vibrant culture. Haitian Creole is an important language in the Americas and the third largest in the Caribbean. It has been rewarding to me and I'm glad that I made the effort to learn it.
1) DLI Hatian Creole Basic Course DLI (Defense Language Institute) Haitian Creole Basic Course
I've used two DLI Basic Courses- HC and Portuguese. I consider them to be the most thorough and useful courses I have ever used for any language. The only problem with the Haitian course is the audio which is barely listenable to un-listenable at times for several lessons. I muddled through with it and used the audio when I could and didn't when it wasn't possible. The good thing about HC is that once the learner has learned the pronunciation, they can be their own audio because HC spelling is phonetic. Learn to pronounce HC and learners can pronounce anything
written in HC.
Q: What's so great about the DLI Basic course if the audio is so bad?
A: I mentioned that it's very thorough. It will cover conversation, reading, grammar and provide drills and comprehension exercises. The drills are, to me, extremely helpful in doing what the word implies- drilling the vocabulary and grammar into my brain. As I've said, not all the audio is un-listenable. Other resources will take care of your pronunciation well. Please don't let the audio issue stop from you from using an excellent
resource. I highly
recommend the DLI HC Basic course. Oh yeah, it's free and legal to download!
My multi-track approach to learning
involves using multiple resources simultaneously. In the case of using the DLI course, it is essential to have another course with good audio.
2) I also used the Pimsleur HC Course
From my log at HTLAL:
"Pimsleur was a big help. I know and agree with most of the knocks against it- too much English, no transcript, too few words taught, somewhat creepily suggestive dialogs, etc. That being said it was still useful. Useful because of the graduated interval recall system, native speaker pronunciation and ease of use- I listened in the car and while walking. If all I used were Pimsleur and nothing else, I would not have made the progress that I have, true. If you use it as a supplement it works very well. ... Pimsleur was a really good supplement to my other methods. I like the audio only approach as it makes it independent of having to sit and can be taken anywhere. I don't need or want a transcript as I agree that it defeats the purpose of the course at least for western languages. I didn't bother with the reading lessons. So if you're going to use Pimsleur, use it as a supplement and try to get a copy second hand or from your library."
The Pimsleur HC course only has 30 half an hour lessons but worth the time and when used alongside the DLI course, it will take care of your pronunciation and help a lot with basic conversation. It will not teach you the language on its own.
3) The Bible
I start at the Beginning, literally, with Genesis. I make a parallel text and print it to pdf. I put it on my tablet and phone and start reading. The Old Testament has more everyday language (really good for sheep and sheep herding too!). The parallel text
(link leads to a ready made parallel text) makes use of a dictionary optional, but I use one anyway to confirm guesses or see other meanings of a word. Print the text to a pdf and you can make notes within it. I do this all the time. I can add dictionary meanings, my own notes, my doubts. Then I can review the notes. The Bible is good for making parallel texts because it has numbered verses that are short. Also, a learner may be familiar with the content. The Bible also makes it possible to read in parallel with languages other than English. The Old Testament is more of a historical narrative than it is religious indoctrination.
Bible Gateway wrote:
HC 1 Nan konmansman, Bondye kreye syèl la ak latè a.
FR 1 Au commencement, Dieu créa les cieux et la terre.
EN 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Of course, I couldn't find any audio for the OT, only the NT. Audio for the HC New Testament can be found at Faith Comes By Hearing
and via app for phone and tablet.
The HC translation of the Bible was done around 1980 so it's modern. Reading Genesis really ramped up my vocabulary and gave me confidence in the language. It also helped me to internalize numbers, which is pretty much the French number system. There's a lot of repetition and repetition is a good thing in language learning (up to a point).
a) When I'm ready to train listening, I like to have audio with a faithful transcript. Thru the Bible/Atravè Labib
has Bible study/commentary for every book of the Bible (from a Protestant Evangelical perspective) in many languages including HC. What's good about this is that it is a half an hour of audio with a 7-10 or 11 page transcript. This is gold in language-learning and, if you are using the Bible for reading or are familiar with it, it helps to consolidate learning and introduce other conversational language. I've used this a lot with HC. There's not much else available for audio in HC with accurate transcripts. Atravè Labib has hundreds of hours of audio with a transcript available for free.
4) Kansas University Resources/ KU Scholar WorksKU Scholar Works
KU has an excellent selection of HC resources. I've used most of them.
a) Survival Creole
is the very, very basic intro to HC- text with audio
b) Ti koze kreyòl
is a good, basic conversational course with a hokey "romance" story involving two HC learner students. There's no parallel English translation but the dialogs are explained and there is a full glossary. The mp3 audio is also available for download and the course serves as a good component along with DLI and Pimsleur. It's got 140 pages in pdf. Don't worry, you won't really need the parallel English translation of the dialogs for this course. It does mean that a learner must do a little work and give some effort. This is a good thing in language-learning. A little work and effort tends to help us remember better.
Ti koze kreyòl- Koze youn (Chat one) wrote:Yon gason kontre ak yon fi.
Jan: Bonjou, madmwazèl! Kijan ou ye?
Mari: M la, grasa Dye.
Jan: Ou se yon elèv isit la?
Mari: Men wi. E ou menm, ou se yon elèv tou?
c) Chita pa bay
This is a little gem designed along the same lines as the "Ti koze kreyòl" course. It has an abbreviated version of Jaques Roumain's "Gouverneurs de la Rosée/Mèt Lawouze" (Masters of the Dew) with audio and a selection of riddles, jokes and folk tales along with a complete glossary, grammar and vocabulary/usage explanations.
d) Ann Bay L'odyans
(let's tell tales- search for "Ann Bay L'odyans at KU Scholar works) is a series of 16- 16 page free pdf's with Haitian folktales. It's basically a graded reader and I highly
recommend going through them when you feel you are able to start reading.
e) Books in pdf format (large size files) are also available for download by searching KU Scholar Works when you are ready to read non-learner intended real books.
Google and Bing Translate still have a long way to go with HC. I use three dictionaries regularly:
KU Scholar Works has a free Haitian-English dictionary
for download at their site- 197mb file 1,054 pages- quite thorough and ocr'ed for search.
"Haitian Creole – English Dictionary with Basic English – Haitian Creole Appendix" by Jean Targète and Raphael G. Urciolo published by Dunwoody Press and the "Haitian Creole-English Bilingual Dictionary published by the Indiana University Creole Institute (shout out to Daristani!) plus there is a free and legal English-Haitian dictionary from Eric in pdf Diksyonè Anglè Kreyol (English-Kreyol Dictionary) Fequiere Vilsaint- 1991
6) Digital Library of the Caribbean and the Vodou Archive
The Digital Library of the Caribbean- University of Florida Vodou Archive
has pdf's of multiple page interview transcripts with vodouists, some of which have links to the youtube videos and an accompanying already made parallel English text, ready to print. This is an invaluable resource to train reading, build vocabulary and learn about vodou. A knowledge of vodou is integral to learning about Haitian culture and people.
The DLOC also has the Vilsaint monolingual dictionary/Diksyonè Vilsen Twazyèm Edisyon
which can be printed to pdf via the print icon at the upper right via the library site for your own use.
The DLOC has a course book from 1953 by H. Ormonde McConnell and Eugene Swan called You Can Learn Creole
. The book was written well before the orthographic standardization. I think this orthography is very cool, though it's useless for reading anything written in HC nowadays.
7) Wayne Drop- An illustrated story book for fifth gradersVwayaj Wayne Drop nan Everglades la
is a small 16 page book for Florida fifth grade elementary school students in Haitian Creole about a fictional rain drop's (Wayne Drop) voyage to the Everglades. You'll learn some more HC vocabulary and all about the water cycle too! There's also an English
version available for making a parallel text. This was published by the US Army Corps of Engineers for school use. Yeah, I read it and I highly recommend using it- with or without parallel text to break into reading "earlier than you should". That's what I did.
Wayne Drop wrote:“Wow, Wayne, sa vrèman bèl! Pouki w pa rakonte klas la de bèl vwayaj ou
nan Everglades la?”
“Wow, Wayne, that’s really exciting! Why don’t you tell the class about your trips through the Everglades?”
“¡Fantástico Wayne, eso es verdaderamente emocionante! ¿Quisieras contarle a la clase sobre tus viajes a través de los Everglades?”
Mwen santi m tankou lontan, mwen kouri vit ale devan klas la epi mwen kòmanse rakonte elèv yo vizit mwen an nan Everglades.
Feeling like my old self again, I eagerly ran to the front of the room and began telling my classmates about my first visit to the Everglades.
Luego de calmarme un poco, salí disparado al frente del aula y comencé a contarle a mis compañeros mi primer viaje a los Everglades.
8) Cultural Orientation Resource Center HC-Eng PhrasebookCultural Orientation Resource Center HC-Eng Phrasebook
I've used this and it's good for what it does- free and legal pdf- no audio. Put it on your phone for downtime review. Lots of phrases for everyday life for refugees in the US- daily situations. Also available in other languages, including Spanish
intended for Cuban refugees.
9) Lavwadlamerik/VOA Creole
The Voice of America
has short news articles for reading in HC, downloadable news podcasts, a video newscast, and a series of podcasts teaching English to Haitians which is fun to listen to and useful for picking up colloquialisms, though a learner has to be able to understand spoken HC in order to make use out of it. The only transcript is in English- Anglè Fasil/Anglè San Grate Tèt
. These are about 15 minutes long and downloadable to mp3 with over a hundred available. Host Serge Rodriguez spells English words using the Kreyòl alphabet and explains/translates the English phrase into HC- very useful. The VOA site is difficult to navigate, it may take a while to locate all the podcasts- your taxpayers dollars at work! The first five lessons are up at mixcloud Anglè San Grate Tèt
. The first lesson will teach you the alphabet and counting- bilingually- you might want to skip the first couple of minutes. The second lesson is how the rest of the series goes with dialogs in English and explanations/translations in Creole.
The real worth of Lavwadlamerik/VOA lies in reading the short articles and working through them with a dictionary. It helps to be familiar with the news in the US and internationally. These are the best articles with which to start.
10) University of Florida Resources
The University of Florida has a Haitian Studies Department. Professor Benjamin Hebblethwaite (born in South Africa) is one of the premier professors of Haitian Creole in the US. Here is his homepage
at UFL. I found a lot of his Haitian Class resources
quite useful. I almost feel like he was my professor! I chose my first "real" book to read based on the availability of his study guide to the book. That book was Woben Lakwa- Robinson Crusoe
Exerpt from Woben Lakwa wrote:Mwen te fèt nan lane 1632, nan vil York, nan yon fanmi alèz ki pa t natifnatal peyi a. Papa m se te yon etranje, moun Brem; e se nan vil Hull li te fè premye kay li. La, li te vin gen anpil byen nan fè komès; se apre sa li t al abite York.
I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull. He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York
Reading Woben Lakwa was difficult for me at first. I struggled at the beginning. It probably took me between half and two thirds of the book to get comfortable reading without too many look-ups. As an experienced language-learner, I knew that all the trouble would be worth it, and it was. Woben Lakwa is available for sale at a reasonable price on Amazon. The first chapter and introdution to Woben Lakwa
is online in pdf via the University of Florida. There's also a 106 page study guide with activities that I downloaded from U of Florida, but I can't find the link anymore. Here is the link for the vocabulary activities
and a quiz
for the book. Professor Hebblethwaite learned Creole on his own (already had learned French) and used the Bible to help him learn.
The Alligator wrote:
While pursuing his master's degree in French literature at Purdue University in 1996, Hebblethwaite started reading the Creole Bible because it was "the only book I could find," he said. Haitian Creole classes weren't offered, so Hebblethwaite had to teach himself using Creole books. To this day, he has never taken a Haitian Creole language course.
Hebblethwaite's resources are all over the web in pdf, but you'll have to dig for them... like everything else in Kreyòl.
11) Sweet Coconuts BlogSweet Coconuts Blog
: Mandaly, a native speaker, will answer your questions and she has some short podcast lessons with audio to download. Have a look at her page. There's a lot there but difficult to navigate. Check out the grammar page here
for lessons- some with audio.
12) Woy Magazine
Woy Magazine is an online magazine for Haitians and those interested in Haiti which has articles in both English and Kreyòl- you can make a parallel text out of them. In Kreyòl here
and in English here
Why Woy Magazine is useful- it has a faithful translation. Many learners discount and underestimate the value of reading with a parallel text:
Woy Magazine- Daphne Bourgoin wrote:Se toujou ak anpil plezi ke mwen menm ak pitit mwen yo planifye degizman pou kanaval nan lekòl yo chak ane. Ane sa a, nou kòmanse pale de sa pandan ke mwen t ap kondwi yon jou. Pitit gason ak pitit fi mwen te gentan gen yon lis de jan yo ta renmen degize. Tout lide yo te genyen sete swa ewo ti komik yo oubyen pèsonaj ki sot nan fim Disney. Men mwen te gen yon lòt lide nan tèt mwen. Mwen di yo, ane sa a nou p ap fè okenn degizman ki soti lòt bò dlo.
My two kids and I always have a lot of fun planning costumes for their school carnival celebrations every year. This year, the conversation started one day while we were driving, and my son and daughter already had a list of costume ideas in mind. All of their costume ideas were either superheroes from cartoons or Disney characters. But I had something different in mind. I told them that this year we would not do imported costumes.
has Haitian songs with lyrics. You can also search for songs with scrolling karaoke lyrics using name of song + pawòl (lyrics/words).
14) Ann Pale Kreyòl
The classic textbook with audio course from Indiana University is Ann Pale Kreyòl
available free and legally via ERIC. The free ERIC version is the first edition. I downloaded it along with the audio when it was available a few years ago and never used it. I didn't need it. The audio for the free Eric edition is available for free and legal download at the IU CeLT site
. I'm pretty sure there's a second, newer edition, for which I think IU is selling the audio. Since I never used either course, I can't vouch for it. Hurry to download the IU audio from their site if you think you may need it because it is about to be removed at some point soon.
15) Literature and Books
There is a free and legal book that teaches Haitian elemantary school students to read in Kreyòl with comprehension questions and activities produduced by the Total Project via Haiti-now.org (Tout Timoun Ap Li/Every Child is Reading): M ap li nèt ale- didactic materials
. Here's an example of a grade 3 reader
and a companion grade 3 exercise book
. These are for teachers and includes student materials, produced with the assistance of USAID (US Agency for International Development). All this for FREE!Educavision
is a bookstore in South Florida and it has plenty of materials for sale to learners online: bilingual books, courses, children's books. Firefox says they haven't configured their site correctly, so you have to add an exception to visit it. I haven't used it in a while, so I hadn't noticed it. Jebca Editions
is a good bookstore with a lot of contemporary and classic books in HC for sale online. Près Trileng/Trilingual Press
has Haitian authors plus a couple of Shakespeare Translations in Kreyòl. There are also books in French and poetry collections in Kreyòl and parallel with French.
16) Pawòl LakayPawòl Lakay
is a paid coursebook plus audio developed by a Haitian teacher at the College of the Bahamas. Review
also for sale at Amazon
17) How to make your own parallel text easilyUsing GlobalVoices.org to make simple parallel texts
Most of the images I used to illustrate the post disappeared but the instructions are valid and easy. Parallel texts are a great way to jump start reading and reduce frustration when beginning to read. Eventually, you won't need the crutch anymore.
18) French Based Resources
There is a French based course- J'apprends le Créole Haitien/Ann aprann pale kreyòl.
Assimil has a "De Poche" book with a French base for HC. The Assimil le Créole course is for Guadeloupean Creole- similar but a smaller population, different language spoken in Guadeloupe and mutually intelligible to a large extent with Martinican, French Guiana and St Lucian Creoles- Haitian too, but mutual intelligibility is better for native-speakers, along the lines of the Scandinavian languages.
is the clearing house website for Creolists in the Caribbean. There is plenty of Haitian material some with parallel French text but you'll have to dig for it around this unwieldy site. I've read several books from Emmanuel Vidrine here.
There is a brief free grammar here
. The grammar book that I use is monolingual Kreyòl called Gramè Deskriptif Kreyòl Ayisyen An
and is a paid resource. It's very useful when you will reach intermediate level. The website also has grammar exercises, proverbs and more. The wikipedia grammar outline about the language is very handy for beginners.
Twitter is a vastly underutilized free resource for language-learners. It is much easier to parse a short tweet than it is to parse a long article or a book as a beginner. The links can also lead to discovering other resources, native content- music, books, people. It also presents an opportunity to interact with Kreyòl-speakers in Kreyòl.Detay Lakay
Linguist with tweets about Haitian Creole grammar, music and food.Michel DeGraff MIT professor and linguist
, Director of the MIT Haiti Initiative
- dedicated to creating learning materials in Creole for Haitian schools. VOA Kreyòl (Lavwadlamerik)
- The Voice of America Kreyòl Service has news, video, audio and topical stories. Woy magazine
Links to articles and cultural links.
N.B. Many, if not most, of these links will die or migrate over time. If you, as a learner, are serious about learning Haitian Creole... you won't let this stop you. The resources will probably still be there, somewhere. You'll just have to look for them. If I can find them, you can too. Bòn chans !
Recent edits: new category for twitter; updated and new links for Vilsen Diksyonè; Wayne Drop English, Kreyòl and Español; DLI Haitian Creole Basic Course; Ann Bay L'odyans; Trilingual Press. Edited student reader url and added a link to an example. I told you all that links will die or migrate over time! I'll try to keep up with them, but no guarantees.