04/24/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Notre Dame Offers Free Online Course in Haitian Language and Culture

The University of Notre Dame is offering Professor Karen Richman's "Creole Language and Culture" class as a free online course. Dr. Richman recommends this course for anyone who is planning to participate in the ongoing disaster relief effort in Haiti or who works with Haitians in other countries. It is also recommended for those who want to know more about this country whose history is so closely tied with our own.

The course is designed to introduce people "to the vivid, sonorous language of Kreyòl, or Creole, and to the culture and history of its speakers." Dr. Richman assures potential students that this is a "beginning-level course... intended for students with no knowledge of Creole." It uses a "multilateral approach," including music and film as well as individual assignments, to enhance language acquisition. In addition, language study is augmented with segments that engage students in learning about Haitian history, culture and religion.

The objectives of this course are to:

  • Build elementary skills in listening, reading, writing, and speaking Creole.
  • Gain basic insights into Haitian history, society, culture, and religion.
  • Be able to converse at a basic level.

Dr. Richman serves as the Director of the Center for Migration and Border Studies for Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies. She lived in Haiti and she is one of the world's leading scholars on Haitian culture, religion, labor and language. Dr. Richman is the author of Migration and Vodou, a book that sheds light on the myths about vodou (or "voodoo") that have been used against Haitians for centuries. She won the 2009 Heizer award for the best article in the field of ethnohistory for her article, "Innocent Imitations? Mimesis and Alterity in Haitian Vodou Art." Her latest essay, "Run from the Earthquake, Fall into the Abyss: A Léogâne Paradox" can be found here.

Dr. Richman is willing to work with other educational institutions, organizations and agencies to assist them in incorporating this course into their curriculum and in evaluating participants' progress. She can be reached at 574-631-8146 or

This free, online offering is directly related to two of the University's global commitments. First, Notre Dame has had an ongoing relationship with Haiti since 1944, and the Notre Dame Haiti Program in Léogâne is a leader in the international fight against elephantiasis. Second, this course is one of Notre Dame's contributions to OpenCourseWare (OCW), the project of an international consortium of over 200 institutions and organizations offering "free and open digital publication of high quality educational materials, organized as courses, available for use and adaptation under an open license." The goal of this collaboration is "to advance education and empower people worldwide" (See