“Modi?”

After my students had settled into their seats and the school bus lurched out of the school parking lot, I set my teacher clipboard down and gazed around. Next to me were two of my Creole-speaking students, M and K, the only two still in the Sheltered English Immersion class.

“Hi, ladies!” I said as I slid over to perch in front of them. “I’d like you to teach me some Creole. What’s the number one thing you think I should know how to say?”

“Eh?” K responded.

“Oh like words of Creole?!” M asked and explained all at once, excitement in her voice. M has told me before how interested she is in other languages. She is learning Spanish from my Spanish-speaking students and signed up for the high school where she can learn French and Chinese. Last week she wrote a little essay about how she wants to join the FBI but will need to learn French, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian first.

She turned to K and conferred. Turning back to me M suggested that I learn the word “modi” which is the way to ask “how are you?” that is roughly equivalent to the French “ça va?” from what I gathered from their explanation. I grabbed my clipboard and scribbled it down on the attendance sheet so I wouldn’t forget it. I practiced my new word a couple of times and then let them get back to giggling at their phones.

The next day when they walked into my class I proudly asked, “Modi?”

K gave me a quizzical look and then, as the memory of the day before came back to her, responded in Creole. Now it was my turn to look confused.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“I just said fine.”

“That don’t mean fine,” M interjected. “It mean like pretty good.” Either way, it is clear I have a long way to go before I’m conversant in Creole. Luckily I have M (and K) to teach me.

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