Bilingual Education among the Karipúna and Galibi-Marwono: Prospects and Possibilities for Language Preservation



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John Benjamins


Amapá French Creole is spoken mainly by the Karipúna and Galibi-Marwono, who are both indigenous Brazilians as well as members of the wider Caribbean French Creole-speaking community. Members of both ethnic groups are bilingual in French Creole and Portuguese to varying degrees, depending on their ethnohistory and geographical location, and language attitudes vary from group to group and village to village. Catholic and Protestant missions have been largely responsible for promoting a 3-year bilingual education primary school programme among these French Creole speakers, and there has also been government support in this area. The bilingual programme aims to preserve the mother tongue of the Karipúna and GalibiMarwono youth, as well as to provide these young Brazilians with a foundation in Portuguese. All education beyond primary school is in Portuguese, the official language, which is the language of prestige, power and offers possibilities for socio-economic advancement. It is in the context of bilingual education that many young Karipúna and Galibi-Marwono are first exposed to Portuguese. In this language contact situation, a growing preference for Portuguese may well militate against longer term language maintenance efforts in these French Creole Amerindian minority communities. This chapter explores bilingual education among both the Karipúna and Galibi-Marwono, government policies for indigenous mother-tongue education, and the models and materials currently in use. The chapter focuses on the prospects for the double-edged sword of bilingual education, representing at once hope for language maintenance as well as the source of possible long-term erosion for the very language that the current programme is trying to preserve.


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