Creole classes come to Queens Library

Wynnie Lamour offers Haitian Creole classes to New Yorkers hungry for language instruction.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Free Haitian Creole classes are being offered at the Central Library at the Queens Library in Jamaica starting Sept. 3. An initiative from the Programming and Outreach Department, its target audience is both for Haitian-heritage New Yorkers and others interesting in learning the main language of Haiti.

Why offer these classes?

“I know a lot of young Haitian-Americans struggling with identity issues,” said Jean René, a programming manager at the library.

For many of the first generation born here, Haitian Creole is spoken at home, and while the language may be understood by many, facility at speaking or reading and writing is not there, he explains.

“They want to learn more of the language,” Rene said.

He explained that the neighborhoods of Queens Village, Cambria Heights, Rosedale, South Hollis, Rochdale Village, and South Ozone Park have large Haitian populations. Visitors to the library come looking for resources and frequently ask for bi-lingual or Haitian Creole books.

“The classes are also for Americans who are interested in learning Haitian Creole. These include New Yorkers who interact with the Haitian community, those who plan to travel to Haiti for humanitarian work or some who have a boy/girlfriend or spouse who is Haitian.

There might be two levels in the class: the absolute beginners and those who have been exposed to the language –— the heritage learners.
“It might be a ‘mixed classs,’ ” René said.

He says he will assess at what level the attending students are. After the first classes, he will see how to proceed and structure the class.

In years past, at different times, the Central Library has offered French, Spanish, and Arabic classes.

The class takes place in a small conference room on the ground floor; the maximum enrollment is 17.

Wynnie Lamour, who has been teaching–groups and privately–to heritage learners and absolute beginners for a number of years, will be the instructor. She started the Brooklyn-based Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York.

René is particularly interested in drawing in a target population who aren’t already connected with Haitian organizations. Of course, all are welcome.

“There has been a lot of interest,” said the Haiti-born René said, who has been with the Library for 13 years. René received his Masters in Library Science from CUNY, Queens College.

René’s team, as well as other units at Central, continue to schedule programs for all ages such as author, artist talks and book discussions, arts workshops such as drumming and musical performances.

“The range of programs we do that touch aspects of Caribbean culture are very diverse,” he said.

Registration will take place for the Haitian Creole classes on site. The hour-and-half classes start at 6 pm.

Haitian Creole classes at the Central Library in Queens [89-11 Merrick Blvd. (718) 990–8622] Sept. 3–Dec. 3. Free.

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