The short answer is: speak and write in Haitian Creole. Here’s why…
What language do Haitians speak?
At first glance, “What language do Haitians speak?” sounds like an easy question to answer. Yet, the best answer is: It depends!
We aren’t trying to confuse, but it can be confusing. Haiti has two official national languages: Haitian Creole and French. A simple way to think about it: All Haitians speak Haitian Creole. But only 5% speak French fluently, with only another 5-10% able to understand some French.
So…just translate your message into Haitian Creole and you’ll be safe? Well, again, that depends…
School teachers speak French in Haiti. Are you writing an instruction manual or a newspaper advertisement for your product? Use Haitian Creole. Have business with the government? Use French. Are you the government reaching out to the people? Use Haitian Creole. The same goes for communicating with the growing Haitian populations in Florida, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Use Haitian Creole.
So…use Haitian Creole if you want your message translated for the “average Haitian”, right? Yes but.
Honest, we aren’t trying to be difficult. It does make sense to use Haitian Creole to communicate with average Haitians. HOWEVER, and this is the “but” in “Yes but”, use a translator with Haitian Creole as their first language. Haitian Creole is a “new” language, often referred to as a “Plain Language” language. Because it’s new compared to most centuries-old languages, it has been able to avoid many of the foibles of most languages. Ironically, Haitian Creole being a more modern, clear, and consistent language can make for flawed translations by English or French speakers who also understand Haitian Creole. If you’re not a native Haitian Creole speaker, translating “All forms must be filled out by the applicant” into Haitian Creole may end up “All forms must fill out the applicant.”
To summarize, Haitians speak two languages. But, if you want to communicate effectively with them, use Haitian Creole and, please, use a translator with Haitian Creole as their first language or your message is going to sound very strange.