Today was a first ever. Ledikasyon pu Travayer (Workers' Education Association) launched an on-line inter-active electronic Mauritian Kreol Dictionary. See www.kiltir.com where the dictionary is housed. The date for the launch was fixed to coincide with World Kreol Language Day, 28 October.
With a launching speech by Vinesh Hookoomsing, University of Mauritius Pro-Vice Chancellor, and in the presence of Dr. Arnaud Carpooran who has recently launched the absolutely path-breaking first-ever Mauritian Kreol-Mauritian Kreol Dictionary, the LPT "virtual dictionary" had a fine send-off.
Vinesh Hookoomsing said how in the long struggle for the recognition and the full status of the Mauritian Kreol language, there have been ups and downs. Sometimes it has seemed as if there is no progress at all, maybe even setbacks.
However, recently, he said, there had recently been one of those sudden surges in developments around the Mauritian Kreol language. There seems to be a great deal of progress. There is the DIKSYONER MORISIEN that Arnaud Carpooran and his team have just launched, which gives the meaning of a particular word in Mauritian Kreol without leaning on any other language. This is an immense step forward, he said.
There is the FTS-Les Verts' formal political demand at their last week's congress for the National Assembly to introduce the use of spoken Mauritian Kreol.
There has been the Government setting up the committee that has come up with Grafi Larmoni.
There have been the successful use of Court actions by organizations like the Federation of Pre-School Playgroups and the FTS-Les Verts.
And now, he said, there is the opening up of electronic space which represents a new means of producing written langauge, a new technology.
He mentioned that he is speaking both in his own name, and also associating his words about the Mauritian Kreol language with his status at the University of Mauritius.
Kisna Kistnasamy gave an outline of how the LPT sub-committee called "The Dictionary Sub-Committee" of 17 members had worked for months on preparing the dictionary to go electronic and on-line. This, she said, is in the spirit of the original book-form dictionary published in 1984 as a result of a whole team's work. Now, she added, even more people can write in or email and thus add words and meanings that are missing, or new terms.
She said an on-line dictionary has the amazing advantage over printed ones, in that it does not automatically become outdated the minute it's published. The Sub-Committee will review suggestions as they come in on the automatically generated emails from the site from people who want to send additions.
Krishna Thirapathi who organized to house the dictionary on his site www.kiltir.com explained how to look up words, and how to suggest additions and alterations. He also showed the links to other sites, including Loga and Dev Virahsawmy's literary site, the Mize Dodo (a virtual museum on the Dodo in Mauritian Kreol), our Lalit site and other parts of the kiltir.com site.
Alain Ah-Vee said, in his speech, that at the moment, there is a particularly important set of developments around the WRITTEN language. He mentiones, in particular, the new Arnaud Carpooran dictionary, Lalit's launching of a translation in both book and audio CD form of the MANIFESTO by Marx and Engels, and with Grafi Armoni, the standardized orthography proposed by the Government set up Committee chaired by Vinesh Hookoomsing. And this brought him to an important point.
The main body of Alain's speech was a concise description and analysis of the damage done not only to children with learning difficulties, but to all children and to everyone who has been through this education system, where our mother tongue is suppressed in school and is not used in the written form.
He said how in the past LPT and others had tended to see the damage as specific to those with learning problems. But this is erroneous. It has affected us all, he said.
In fact, the suppression of the mother tongue ends up being a blocking of the natural process of learning to use language for advanced cognitive processes. That is to say, language is not just the visible "communication" aspect of language that the cliché implies language is. It is much more than this. It is our thinking tool, the tool of our understanding of the universe, the thing through which we interpret what comes to us from the world.
Lindsey Collen, who presided, said how over 30 years, the developments around the written form of the Mauritian Kreol language had only been sporadic over the first 150 or so years since its sudden genesis. But since the 1970's, the developments have been consistent over time. This is partly, she said, because there are political currents that have created the political space for necessary.
There was the MMMSP, which together with the newspaper Soley Ruz and the cultural group Soley Ruz, created the space in which Dev Virahsawmy's profound literary contribution was able to flower.
Then there was Lalit de Klas which became Lalit, which together with its newspapers and magazines, created space for many other writers to produce their work and organizations to use Kreol. In the general space created by Lalit, the working class movement, the women's movement and other movements have been able to thrive.
There was also, though timid, the space created by the MMM, and close to it, the Grup Kiltirel Morisyen, and Rama Poonoosamy has contributed through Immedia's regular annual anthology that includes Mauritian Kreol writing and also to the gradual standardization of the language in advertizing, not only in Immedia, but through its influence in the association of advertizers.
These three political currents then created and continue to create additional space in the interstices, she said.
She said it was important to continue to do two things at the same time. To at one and the same time put pressure on Government to recognise and officialize Mauritian Kreol and also to continue to ourselves create the frameworks that languages need, in the way the team on the Arnaud Carpooran team are doing and the way LPT is doing. The more such groups that work on stremgthening the language, the better. We cannot just wait for the State to act.