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Belize Kriol Gets Its First Dictionary
posted (October 31, 2007)

Creole, it's the one thing all Belizeans seem to have in common. We all talk it, but none of us can write it. That's because it's not a written language - but it is now. And if you can spell dikshineri, you can learn it. That's because the new Kriol-English dictionary has been launched. It took ten years, countless man and woman hours, and numerous meetings of minds but the Kriol language now has its own dictionary. It was launched this morning at the House of Culture - a day which Kriol activists call historic. 7NEWS was there.

Myrna Manzanares, President - Belize Kriol Kouncil
"Like I said, history di mek."

And that history was celebrated in grand style this morning as the Governor General and Minister of Education spoke - while Brukdong's king and queen performed at the launch for this book: the first full English-Kriol Dictionary - or as it says in Kriol: "the Kriol Inglish Dikshineri."

Myrna Manzanares, President - Belize Kriol Kouncil
"The dictionary tek over ten years to, ten years the work, struggle through when people tek yuh mek papisho and guess what papisho is in the dictionary."

You can find papisho and about 6,000 other Kriol words in the dictionary along with definitions and English translations. A team took ten years to write and edit the more than 470 pages. Secretary of the Kriol Kouncil Sylvana Woods says this is the definitive publication of the Kriol language.

Sylvana Woods, Secretary - Belize Kriol Council
"You got the part of speech, you got the different tenses of the words, you have 470 odd pages, you have samples sentences in Kriol, the translation into English, some drama notes. This pulls together a lot of which is happening in the region with modern town literacy. When you have a dictionary, instead of one person spelling it 'weh' and somebody else spell it 'whe' and somebody else goes 'we' - you have the Oxford or the Webster of Belize so that serves to unify us more because no matter what is our first language, dah Belize most of us will still talk Kriol anyway. So we are saying we need English but we don't have to stomp out this language of our heart to get to that English."

Sylvana Woods and Myrna Manzanares - the President of the Kriol Council says the number one purpose of the dictionary will be to preserve the language of an endangered culture.

Sylvana Woods,
"Memba when George McKesey used to talk about wretch the riva bank. A lot of that done lost so we have that in here as archaic, wretch the bank or how rural talk as opposed to urban talk and your language is your culture. Kenneth Hayle one of the greatest socio-linguist in the world dead in 2001 and Newsweek did an obituary and he said when you lose a language, it is like you are dropping a bomb on a museum. Ih seh when you lose a language, you are losing the heart of thought of people."

Myrna Manzanares,
"The important thing is to make everybody understand and to make the children understand that this is a language, this is our language, we are proud of it, we are proud of our culture... we don't have to teach them Kriol because they already know it."

But do students really know Kriol? To find out, this morning I flipped through the dictionary with students from a standard 5 class at St. Ignatius Primary School.

[Students Trying To Understand What Words Mean]

Keith Swift,
I was flipping through the book with some students from St. Ignatius and I was asking them some of the words and many of them didn't know the words. What does that tell you?

Sylvana Woods,
"That tells you why this dictionary was needed."

It's needed but will it be used? Chief Education Officer Maud Hyde and General Manager of Anglican Schools Carol Babb say yes it will.

Keith Swift,
Will this have a place in the classroom?

Maud Hyde, Chief Education Officer
"It certainly will because it is part of education, it is part of the learning experience and I think it will be a wonderful tool for teachers to be able to show students the words they are pronouncing, the difference between the English word, the Kriol word and I think it will give a realistic picture to children of the language they are speaking."

Carol Babb, General Manager - Anglican Schools
"I believe it will have a place Keith just like any other first language. We have to teach children that this is how you say it in Kriol and this is how you say it in English. So it will have a place so the children can learn how to translate from one language to the other and as Sylvana or one of them said, we need to let the children know that Kriol is part of their culture. This is something that they should not be ashamed up. They should be proud of who they are and Kriol is a part of them so it will have a place."

Keith Swift,
So for you this dictionary is a good thing?

Carol Babb,
"It is a good thing and we are going to use it."

The dictionary is available widely in bookstores and at all libraries. Each school have also received copies of the dictionary.

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