Creole and French are the two official languages in Haiti. Only a small number of Haitians speak French, but everyone speaks Creole. English is increasingly spoken among the young and in the business world.

Although most Creole words come from French, Creole pronunciation and grammar are very different from French pronunciation and grammar. Therefore, understanding one of these languages does not mean that one understands the other language. For example, "He wasn't there" is "Il n'était pas là" in French and "Li pa-ti-la" in Creole.

In the past, although most Haitians in everyday life spoke Creole, French was the language used in government, business and education. The language difference created a gap between the upper and lower classes. It has only been in the last part of the 20th century that Creole has been recognized officially. In the 1987 Constitution, Creole was given full official status.

Haiti has an oral culture. There is a long tradition of roverbs, jokes, riddles and storytelling. Creole is famous for proverbs that voice popular beliefs and that reflect Haiti's social divisions. In rural areas, most serious conversations include at least one proverb. For example, "Dyè môn, gen môn" (Beyond the mountain is another mountain) is a proverb that suggests that problems never come singly. "Si travay te bon bagay, moun rich ta pran-l lonton" (If work were a good thing, the rich would have taken it all a long time ago) is an example of the sense of humour that makes difficulties bearable for Haitians.

English is growing in importance in Haiti as a result of increased trade with English-speaking countries. English has also become more important as Haitians emigrate to English-speaking countries. Many wealthy families, who send their children to North American schools, have also promoted the use of English.

English Creole
How are you doing? Ki jan ou yé?
Good morning Bon jou
How is your family? Ki jan fanmi ou yé?
Would you like a cup of coffee? Eské ou vlé Kafé?
See you tomorrow, God willing A Démin si dié vlé
What's up? Sak pasé?
Goodbye Moinalé