The People’s Language

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By K. Jagatsingh

When it was announced that Walter and I would go to the MBS to simulate a discussion on the Five-Year Plan in Creole, a respectable friend of mine told me that Creole was the best medium through which to inform the people of what the Government was doing. He also warned me that we would be severely criticized. And so it happened, I think it will be good to take a serious look at the objections raised and to consider how far they are worth considering. In public affairs it is always good to weigh the other man’s arguments.

The decision to have the discussion in Creole has been criticized by Le Mauricien and Action. Both harped on a single argument. To Le Mauricien it was “dégradant” and to Action it was “une insulte à tous les Mauriciens.” But neither of them thought of explaining why speaking in Creole at the MBS was either disgraceful or insulting. Is it self-evident to them? Do they really believe that a public discussion in Creole is so disgraceful? I think they do not like our faces, and they had just been voicing ill-feelings.

It is known that they never miss any opportunity to pounce upon Walter and Forget. On two occasions, Rev. Father Souchon spoke in Creole at the MBS. Once he interviewed a fisherman from Rodrigues. Recently he interviewed an inmate of the Orthopaedic Hospital. Both the interviews were successful; they were very effective – they served their purpose. Was Father Souchon dégradant? Did he insult all Mauritians? Why did Action and Le Mauricien not criticize Father Souchon? They could not.

They cannot. They never will. They lack integrity. They have put the saddle on the wrong horse.

Even the séga which some time ago was considered dégradant and fit only for the riffraff is now becoming respectable. So much so, that some séga singers were taken to entertain the Admiral and the Officers of L’Arromanches, the French aircraft carrier which visited us two weeks ago. Was it really dégradant? One can see without difficulty through the nonsensical arguments put forward by Action and Le Mauricien. The idiosyncrasies of Action and Le Mauricien apart, one has to examine another no less important aspect of this matter.

What is the best medium, accessible to everyone, through which government realisations can be made to percolate down to the people? How to inform the average man and woman of what is happening at Eau Bleue, of the potentialities of Chartreuse tea factory, and of the multitudinous development works now in progress all over the island. I repeat it’s through Creole. The aim of Government in this particular scheme is not to bother about the subtleties of Shakespearean English or to broadcast the tantalising nuances of Molière’s mind but to keep the people — that matters really — informed of what is happening around them.

On Monday night, the MBS broadcast an informative talk enumerating the steps taken by the government to ameliorate the local breed of cattle. The talk was in French, and I enjoyed it most. But how many of those who listened to it are actively engaged in dairy farming? I do not advocate that such talks should never be made in French or English, but I take the view that if it were in Creole, it would have reached the very people who are actually in need of expert advice or of technical information regarding the breeding of cattle.

If we want to inform the people, we must talk in a language which goes straight to their heart. It must be their language; it must be a language they like. Let’s do away with a snobbery which bids fair to become a sort of Cleopatra’s nose.

6th Year – No 259
Friday 31th July 1959

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 26 January 2024

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