Cops bridging the Chinese cultural divide
In an effort to improve relations with Chinese merchants who now dominate trade and commerce in most local townships, the Jamaica Constabulary Force has begun training members to communicate in Mandarin, the standard literary and official form of Chinese spoken by more than 730 million people worldwide.
In St Mary, Constable Othneil Holness and Detective Rose Marie Brown are the two members of the constabulary who tune in for a minimum two hours of training each Monday and Wednesday, either by travelling to the National Police College of Jamaica in Twickenham Park, St Catherine, or from the comfort of Area Two headquarters where the lectures are streamed live.
After five months of classes, Holness is looking forward to completing the course some time around August when he anticipates being functionally literate in Mandarin.
The interactive sessions make for interesting classes that are recorded, copies of which are easily accessible for revision and homework purposes immediately afterwards.
Describing his written and verbal command of the foreign language as minimal, the policeman had high praise for the Chinese lecturer, whom he described as proficient and patient.
Being part of a very active operational team does take a lot of his time, and with attendance at court also part of the job requirement, Holness is hard-pressed but believes the sacrifice is well worth it.
"It's a good course and I recommend anybody to take the opportunity to partake of the course, but it requires discipline. We are learning to read it and to write it and to pronounce words and ... there are challenges, but I am making steady progress. It's challenging, and the reason is that one word can mean four different things. However, it is dependent on how it is pronounced," the policeman explained.
Already, the effort is paying off, as whenever he visits a Chinese establishment and greets the Chinese with "good morning" or "thank you" in Mandarin, the reaction is priceless.
"Everybody hold them hand at them mouth and them cautious," he said, pointing out that he finds Oriental people to be generally gentle and good-natured.
Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, commanding officer for St Mary, said the training is part of a structured approach to bridging the cultural divide in order to facilitate more effective policing.