About Kwéyòl 4 Kids
Kwéyòl 4 Kids Ltd was founded in 2009, by Trina John-Charles. The vision was to provide books and teaching aids for children in Dominican and St. Lucian Creole / Kwéyòl, also known as ‘patois’.
Born in England to Dominican parents, Trina, like many other children of Kwéyòl descent living in England, was never taught Kwéyòl as a child. A firm and frank chastisement by a family friend, for not being able to speak her native language fluently, not only prompted Trina to learn Kwéyòl, but also quickly set her entrepreneurial cogs into motion.
“My friend’s Mum wanted to tell me something, but she didn’t want everyone else to hear. She knew my parents were Dominican and asked if I could speak patois. When I said, ‘no’ she basically told me my parents had failed. In a weird way, I thought she was right.”
“I heard Kwéyòl in the house as a child, but my parents only ever spoke if they were discussing something they didn’t want us [children] to hear, or when they were talking to their friends.” Trina explains. “It was embarrassing that all my friends – Spanish, Irish, Greek, Nigerian, Ghanaian, even Welsh – all knew their mother tongues, why didn’t I? This is really what prompted me to learn.”
Trina began to teach herself the fairly new Kwéyòl reading and writing system, derived in St. Lucia. This is when she realised that books or reading materials in the language were very scarce, especially to those living outside of the Islands.
If the language is to be perpetuated, the best way to start is with the children – from the ground up. Armed with a degree in journalism and a flair for creative writing, Trina started the Kwéyòl 4 Kids project, with a view to teaching the Kwéyòl language in an easy format that children could follow and where parents could learn with their children.
The first title is, ‘My First Kwéyòl Number Book’, which teaches you how to count from 1-20 in Kwéyòl.
This is accompanied by two activity books, ‘My Kwéyòl Colouring Book’ aimed at younger children, with simple Kwéyòl colouring and writing exercises. ‘My Kwéyòl Activity Book’ is slightly more advanced, with Kwéyòl puzzles and games, which is very popular with both adults and children alike.
Trina’s original transcripts were rejected by several publishers. When she demanded to know why; she was told that, ‘Kwéyòl was not a ‘recognized’ language’.
“Initially I thought, ‘how dare you!?’ Then I thought, ‘not recognized by whom? How is somebody working at a publishing house qualified to tell me what languages are recognized and which ones are not?’ Kwéyòl is very recognized by me, the many speakers in Dominica, St. Lucia, parts of Trinidad, parts of Grenada, etc.”
However, the young entrepreneur was not deterred, the minor setback only further encouraged her to complete the project. “I thought to myself, ‘If they won’t publish my books, I will publish them myself. I will not let ignorance deny Creole children in the diaspora the chance to learn their mother tongue.'”
It takes just three generations before a language is lost completely and we are seeing the emergence of 3rd generation Dominican Out of 10 six year olds of Kwéyòl descent living in the UK, none were able to say a basic sentence in Kwéyòl when surveyed and less than half could speak any Kwéyòl words at all.
Trina added Four wall charts to her set of Kwéyòl 4 Kids products. These teach parts of the body, colours, days of the week/months of the year and numbers 1-10. Trina also set up an e-commerce website, with all the products available to purchase.
Being proud of your language, where you come from and your heritage is intrinsic to the core of the Kwéyòl 4 Kids ethos.
“My Kwéyòl is still not perfect, but I took all the knowledge I had and put it into these teaching materials. I just want children to at least have a grasp of the basics. In Dominica and St. Lucia, Kwéyòl is now taught in school and your ability to get a job is heavily increased if you can speak Kwéyòl fluently. I think the emphasis placed on Kwéyòl should be the same outside of the islands too.”
“My website and the books I have written will help to dispel the prejudice surrounding Kwéyòl and other Patois languages. Kwéyòl is sometimes referred to as ‘Pidgin’ or ‘not a real language’. These views are very unfortunate and old fashioned misconceptions, the Kwéyòl 4 Kids products are a step towards reversing this old and outdated ideology.”