Language Studies: Haitian Creole/Kreyòl

Duke requires all students to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language at the intermediate or advanced level. Courses suitable for meeting this requirement are designed with an FL (Foreign Language) curriculum code. Depending on your language proficiency, you must complete one of the following:

  • Option One: If you begin language study at Duke in an elementary language course, you must take 3 full courses in that language to meet your FL requirement for graduation, OR
  • Option Two: If you enter language study at Duke at the intermediate level or above, the successful completion of a 300-level FL-designated course will fulfill your requirement.
    • If you place in the first semester of the intermediate level, you will need to take at least 3 full consecutive courses in the same language.
    • If you place into the second semester of the intermediate level, you will need to take at least 2 full consecutive courses in the same language.
    • If you place in a 300-level course, you will only need to take 1 course.

The Department of Romance Studies at Duke University works with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), the Haiti Lab, and the Duke/ UVA/Vanderbilt  Partnership for Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL’s) to offer a full sequence of Haitian Creole / Lang kreyòl courses. Linguist and translator Jacques Pierre teaches Elementary Creole I (101/701), Elementary Creole II (102/702), Intermediate Creole (203/703), Advanced Intermediate Creole (204/704), and a Research Independent Study in Creole. Creole linguistic grounding is an important element of Caribbean studies at Duke; courses in Caribbean Studies are taught by Romance Studies faculty Laurent Dubois and Deborah Jenson, as well as by faculty in other humanities departments. French and Creole studies are historically linked through the history of French colonialism in the New World arena, just as Creole and African studies are linked through the African heritage salient in Haitian language, religion, music, and dance, etc. Creole studies are also linked to American and diasporic studies as Haitian-Americans and Haitian migrants play an increasingly prominent role in US culture; simultaneously, Americans are going to Haiti in ever greater numbers for work in NGOs, missions, journalism, academic research, business investments, relief work, and global health.

Majoring in Romance Studies with Creole/Kreyòl

Students may count the Creole sequence toward a major in Romance Studies, which involves advanced study in two of the department’s language/culture sections and an international and experiential learning experience. The major consists of foreign language study at the major level (300 level or above taught in the language) within two departmental fields. Example combinations include: two continental fields, for example peninsular Spanish and Italian; two fields encompassing the diversity of cultures and engagement in the “developing” and the “developed” worlds, such Creole and French; or two fields in geographically proximate postcolonial spaces such as lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) and francophone Africa, or Spanish and Portuguese-speaking environments in South America. Students with unusual depth of study in Creole or Portuguese may petition the Romance Studies faculty to substitute one sequence of five foreign language departmental courses with a combination of three courses and a required thesis (involving two semesters of independent study courses) in Creole or Portuguese. The Romance Studies major in French, Italian, or Spanish and Creole or Portuguese therefore requires unusual initiative and experience in the field of either Creole or Portuguese. Petitions to undertake this option must include a one-page abstract of the project, a bibliography, and the names of three committee members who have consented to serve on the thesis committee. A growing number of Creole students have written theses for distinction in either Romance Studies or French, including, in spring 2017, a thesis written entirely in Haitian Creole. 

Students may also count the Creole sequence toward a Certificate in Latin American Studies.

Who Can Take Creole/Kreyòl Classes?

Romance Studies Haitian Creole courses are open to students from Duke, UNC, NCCU, NCSU and other institutions through inter-institutional registration.

Haiti Lab

Founded in 2010 and concluded in Spring 2013, the Haiti Lab was the first humanities laboratory at the Franklin Humanities Institute. The lab merged research, education, and practical applications of innovative thinking for Haiti’s disaster recovery and for the expansion of Haitian studies in the U.S. and Haiti. Located at the FHI’s headquarters at the Smith Warehouse, the Haiti Lab took its inspiration from the collaborative and discovery-driven model of research laboratories. Undergraduate and graduate students worked with specialists in Haitian culture, history, and language on projects featuring vertical integration of Duke University expertise across disciplines and schools. The Haiti Lab is also a resource for media outlets seeking to gain knowledge of Haiti. See the Haiti Lab archive.

Duke Language Labs

  • 114 Languages Building (West Campus)
  • 101 Carr Building (East Campus)

The course description and placement guidelines that follow should help you choose the proper gateway course given your background. Kreyòl courses do fulfill the general education foreign language (FL) requirements. There are no AP, IB or SAT placement tests for Kreyòl.

If you have this background or experience: You should take this course:
Elementary Creole - 100 level courses
  • No prior contact with Haitian Creole
Creole 101: Elementary Creole I - This class is designed to provide linguistic skills and cultural sensitization for potential participants who would like to make a difference in the rebuilding of Haiti. The class is geared toward learning the language for work in the following areas: health care, Haitian women’s rights issues, environment, and children’s rights. Students will be exposed to different aspects of Haitian culture through movies, proverbs, music (rasin), and games.
  • You have taken Creole 101
  • DukeEngage Experience in Haiti
Creole 102: Elementary Creole II - This class is designed to help students develop their speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills at the intermediate level. The linguistic aspect of Haiti will be explored through texts written by Haitian authors in Creole. Also the history of Haiti (1492-1804) will be explored. Students will be able to fully understand the linguistic and historical themes covered in the class through movies, proverbs, music (konpa), lectures, and films.
Intermediate Creole - 200 level courses
  • You have taken Elementary Creole II
  • You have familial background in Creole
Creole 203: Intermediate Creole - This course will help students achieve advanced intermediate fluency in Creole with a focus on improving their listening ability. Students will be exposed to contemporary events by using internet resources in Creole to get a deep insight into Haitian culture, literature, society, and religion. Students will also translate texts from English into Haitian Creole and vice-versa.
  • You have taken Creole 102 and 203.
  • You have taken either 102 or 203 plus completed a two month immersive stay in Haiti.
Creole 204: Advanced Intermediate Creole - This course further sharpens students reading and communication skills. They will master Haitian Creole grammar at an advanced level, gaining a deeper understanding of the different components of Haitian culture while becoming familiar with the works of several Haitians artists (art, literature, poetry, and music) that play a significant role in promoting Haitian Culture.


The DukeEngage program offers a program based in Miami, Florida that emphasizes empowering immigrant communities. The overall focus is on social justice, policy and program implementation. There is considerable opportunities for students to engage with Haitian Kreyol speakers through this program. For more information, visit here.