When language speaks to the heart

    If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart,” Nelson Mandela once remarked (1). There is no better way to create a sense of ease and connectedness with others than communicating in their native language – with a sincere effort at getting it right. People literally “light up” when they hear or see their own language used by a stranger. That fascinating response certainly holds true for the Haitian community and its beloved Haitian Creole language. Haitians exhibit a unique eloquence in Creole and make use of rich metaphors that simply can’t be found in other languages. 

    Here at Creole Solutions, we have our own share of experiences with language going to the heart. When our company got hired to help translate the user interface of a major U.S social media platform, our team members were beyond enthusiastic. The prospect of using social media in their own language, skipping the step of translating user instructions from English or French, was a source of great joy for them. Our translations of the platform even led to coining new words in Haitian Creole (Read “Preparing Haitian Creole for the Digital Age”). The digital age, it seemed, was finally beginning for Haitian Creole as well. Haitian Creole is one of the top ten languages spoken in the United States, but the relevance of offering content in Creole, for example as part of official documents and educational instructions, is not always fully understood.

    Research has consistently demonstrated that human beings create “their perceived reality and self through their mother tongue”. (2) The effort to communicate in a native language therefore goes beyond the primary objective of communicating about a specific topic. Making content available in someone’s mother tongue shows respect for culture and heritage and conveys genuine concern for the intended recipients. A well-prepared translation keeps these emotional components in mind, for example by capturing the humor, original metaphors, or authentic expressions of the target audience. The result goes far beyond simple understanding. Here are a few results our clients can expect when they communicate in Haitian Creole (with a little bit of help from us):

    Participation and commitment: A user or employee who is given the opportunity to weigh in directly – without having to use another language as a detour – automatically gains more equal standing. When the full breadth of content is accessible, technical nuances can be discussed in detail, and proper terminology can be used in skilled debates. Materials such as employee handbooks or lease contracts foster a deeper sense of trust and rapport when they are prepared (properly!) in the recipient’s native language. 

    Buy-in: Imagine yourself in a shop surrounded by products labeled in a foreign script you can’t decipher. You would have to blindly buy products based on your best guess what they may contain. Then compare that to a situation in which the product package tells you about the content in your own language. Which product are you more likely to choose? Buy-in goes both ways. Manufacturers and employers who are looking for buy-in and loyalty must first create the right conditions to earn trust, and language is one of the most direct ways to achieve them.

    Emotional involvement: Language almost always has an emotional sub-context that must be communicated to avoid misunderstandings. In the example of modern healthcare situations, hospital or nursing home staff may not speak the same language as patients. The translations we provide to help Haitian workers find their way around such job descriptions are especially sensitive. Our team at Creole Solutions understands the relevance of creating well-crafted, balanced content for such situations. Our goal is to preserve the message and to add value by making your text both useful and accessible to speakers of Haitian Creole.

    Respect: “I’m a little slow, but when I get the thing, I get it forever. When I get it, I can teach everyone for you” – that’s a quote from Haitian immigrant Lourdjinia Louis, this year’s valedictorian at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, who will start classes at UMass Boston in a few weeks (3). Life as an immigrant can be difficult, in any country. Reading and hearing grammatically correct, fluent Haitian Creole boosts a sense of self-worth, which in turn creates a readiness to explore foreign concepts (government, schooling, or work environments). Having the right words also helps people find ways to ask new questions – and achieve new levels of success in their new environment.

    If you’ve ever tried to tell a joke in another language, you will appreciate that it is much easier to express creativity in your native tongue. Haitian Creole is an incredibly rich and varied language, full of word play and meaning derived from our cultural heritage. When our translations capture the essence of your text with the creative power of Creole – your message will go right to the heart.


    What is the best way to convey your agency’s mission to the Haitian community? Creole Solutions, a certified woman-owned company founded and run by Haitians, understands Haitian audiences and knows the most suitable language to support your communication strategy. We know that idiomatically correct content supports you in gaining the trust of Haitian Creole speakers living in the U.S. Our culturally appropriate translations help you communicate with Haitians in their own language so they can fully participate in official processes. Our team members are bilingual subject matter experts who specialize in translating with the highest level of linguistic accuracy and cultural sensitivity.

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