Kweyol Dictionary Going Fast

Think that people donít read kweyol?

Well, think again, dear anglo-philiac. The first edition of the Ministry of Educationís Kweyol Dictionary is selling 10 times faster than a mid-week paper with half-naked girls on its derriere.

During Kweyol Heritage Month, St. Lucians ate it up like it was bwigo going out of season. It is a phenomenal success by any local standard, but by kweyol standards, it is almost revolutionary.

Bookshops in the north and south of the island are calling up the Folk Research Centre for more and more copies so that they can keep up with the demand. There are reports of dozens of people waiting for a Castries bookshop to open so that they can get a copy.

Skeptics would have thought that the Kweyol Dictionary might have suffered the same fate as other major kweyol publications like Testeman Nef-la, the kweyol Bible and Jones E. Mondesirís monumental $400 dictionary, with its unique, creative othorgraphy. Even the easy-to-read Michael Walker publications of folk fairy tales didnít catch fire like this latest addition to the literary heritage of what some consider an illiterate culture.

The newest kweyol dictionary has several advantages on the kweyol books that went before it, however.

Mondesirís dictionary might have been popular, but the exorbitant price was disturbing even for the writer, much less for the local public. One day, it might be hailed as a landmark publication in the culture, but until then, most people will never shell out the $400 they need to buy one.

The Kweyol Bible, which was released a couple of years ago, provided some hope that kweyol people would soon start reading and writing in their native language. But although Testeman Nef-la has been used widely in churches, it is still not in wide use, even by kweyol readers. And this is not because most kweyol speakers canít read, but because very few people are au courant with the spellings of kweyol words.

The new dictionary might be just the bridge that is needed to make readers of kweyol speakers and to make kweyol speakers of readers. It has everything going for it. At $10 it is one of the cheapest books you will find on the market. Cheaper than even most English dictionaries.

Not only that, but it was launched on the verge of Jounen Kweyol, meaning that everyone was in the mood for a kweyol dictionary.

Any word on whether there is going to be a second printing?

You can count on it. According to John Robert Lee, one of the Christian activists who are still looking for ways to boost kweyol literature, "this popular new dictionary is an important part in the evolution of St. Lucia and the kweyol Caribbean".

"If you look at the development of culture and literature, even in Germany, in England, etc., you will see that the first things they publish are a Bible, some folk or fairy tales and a dictionary," he explained. "Now that we have this dictionary added to the body of kweyol literature that already exists, we have the foundation that a national literature can be built on."

This new success might give patois-phobiacs something new to rant about. Already, the new dictionary is becoming the target of talk show hosts who have nothing but contempt for kweyol. But as with all things that are super-successful, the more they talk about it, the more successful it gets.

So there it is, your Christmas gift package for your reading friends. A dictionary and a bible, and maybe one of those traditional music CDs that the Folk Research Centre has on sale. What more do you want? A kweyol newspaper?

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