Haitian man spent 16 months in a Brazilian prison, waiting to be understood

Haitians make up the second-largest refugee group in Brazil — and the predominance of their Creole language has led to some worrying cases of language barriers

Haitian man prison translation
Illustration: Shutterstock

Language barriers can get you into trouble, depending on the situation. You might get the wrong order at the coffee shop, or you might get on the wrong bus and end up lost in a foreign country. However, for one Haitian man in São Paulo, a language barrier landed him in prison for 16 months.

Accused of murdering his wife, the man was hauled in for questioning but couldn’t understand what the police were asking him. And, in turn, law enforcement couldn’t understand their suspect, who only spoke Creole — the native language of the majority of Haitians.


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