“Vinny See T Fee” is never good news
How many times did your mom say “Vin isi ti fi” and you did not move an inch pretending you didn’t understand Creole. With #KreGlish you can’t pretend anymore as you can read it even if you don’t know any Creole. “Vin isi ti fi” pronounced “Vinny See T Fee” isn’t something you want to hear from your Haitian mom. It usually means you’re in big trouble. Either you broke something, you didn’t get good grades, you messed something up, or Mom heard you’ve been bad from someone who doesn’t live with you. She either heard from a teacher or a neighbor while she was on her way back to the house. As soon as she enters the house, if it’s the first thing you hear, you know things are really bad. It’s an art form for some neighbors to make things sound a lot worse than they are. If you’re Haitian-American and you aren’t proficient in Creole, you’ll most likely still remember these types of phrases because you heard them so much when you were young. For example “M ap pase W de pataswèl” or “Sa W gen nan kὸ W pitit” or “M ap fè W al met kὸ W on kote” or “M ap vin pou ou” or “Ala de koze pou mwen a ti gason sa a.” If you don’t understand those sentences yet, don’t worry, we’ll get you there in a few days. If on the other end you do, add some of your favorites in the comments section.
If you aren’t familiar with my KreGlish methodology developed in my book Creole Meets English, in the very beginning of my teaching I focus on pronunciation, which is different from traditional teachings. Unless there are special requests from more advanced learners, these posts typically focus on teaching new learners to read English that sounds Creole, which has the benefit of increasing their confidence. The method is designed to get rid of the frustration associated with trying to get the pronunciation right when learning a foreign language. At the same time we indicate what’s important to concentrate on to get you ready to read Creole, which is the next step in our process. After practicing with a few sentences similar to the one you’re seeing in this example, new learners are also more eager to engage in conversation. When they gain enough confidence to engage in conversation, their progress is exponential. Familiarize yourself with the sentence in this post and others like it; and as you do, please note key words like “vini” and “ti fi” and use them in conversation as soon and as often as you have the opportunity to do so.
In addition to being able to pronounce this sentence and remember the list of words below, I’d like to attract your attention to the only vowel in the Creole sentence ‘i’. Creole is a phonetic language, which means that every letter makes a unique sound. As you can see in this example the vowel ‘i’ is pronounced ‘ee’ in a every single word: vini, isi, ti, and fi. Well, knowing that all sounds are constant is crucial; it will enable you to begin reading Creole in no time. Every time you see this vowel in Creole, you’ll always want to pronounce it the same way. By remembering this, you’ll be able to read key words like: ki, wi, si, ri, and li among others. Now your vocabulary from this sentence is:
|to come||vin (abbreviation of vini) pronounced like fin|
|here||isit (we use both isi or isit)|
|small / little||ti|
|little girl||ti fi|
Bonus content for native speakers interested in learning to spell Kreyὸl
In the spirit of TOUT MOUN JWENN, which means there’s a little bit for everyone, native speakers who don’t know how to spell Kreyὸl yet can learn a lot from this simple sentence from the following words vin and isi or isit. Most of the challenges faced by native speakers stem from the fact that the French language is our reference and when writing Kreyὸl it’s difficult to break away from the French rules we’ve always used. Thre are 3 crucial rules built-in to those words that are useful to remember.
- The sound ‘in’ is one that presents some challenges for native speakers in the sense that some pronounce it as the French ‘in’ whereas its pronunciation is closer to English. The next sound ‘en’ not in the sample sentence is tied at the hips with ‘in’; it doesn’t make sense to speak about one without the other. It’s relatively easy to understand the difference between the two; let me explain it using the word fin that exists in all three languages English, Kreyὸl, and French. In English it’s a body part of a shark whereas in the other two languages the meanings are similar but not exactly the same. When a French movie ends, they typically write FIN at the end, which is equivalent to END. In Kreyὸl it’s FEN while FIN is the equivalent of finish and is pronounced just like in. To drive the point home; machin is spelled with a ‘i’, no ‘e’ at the end, which is a rule we’ll cover in the third bullet, while HAND, which is MEN in Kreyὸl is spelled with an ‘e’.
- Whereas the sound ‘sss’ in isi can be spelled several different ways in French: s, ss, c, ç, sc, ti and perhaps some others I can’t think of right now, in Kreyὸl, we always use ‘s’.
- The translation for here is isi or isit. There are many a words in French that end with a silent ‘e’, vite and machine are two such words. In Kreyὸl the ending e is always dropped; as a result we end up with many words that end with consonants. For example vit, rapid, have no ending e. If there’s an ending e, it’s pronounced: pil and pile are two different words that have nothing to do with each other. Pil is a battery while pile translates to step on or crush. Li lage pil la atè epi li pile L – He dropped the battery and he stepped on it.
Look forward to reading your comments and answering your questions.