Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Ketch weh dem seh - Language unit backs Sykes’ call for Patois transcription software in courts

Published:Saturday | February 29, 2020 | 12:18 AMNickoy Wilson/Staff Reporter

The Jamaican Language Unit (JLU) has welcomed the call by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes for software developers to create a programme to do voice-to-speech Jamaican Patois transcription for use in the nation’s courts.

“So it may mean at some point, and it may be a business opportunity here, someone, for the voice-to-text Patois translation. So once you get the voice-to-text Patois (transcription) … particularly in the Parish Courts, because most of our litigants are Patois speakers, you see, so that will go a far way,” the chief justice said.

Speaking Thursday night at the launch of the National Conference on Technology in the Justice Sector at the AC Marriott Hotel in St Andrew, Sykes argued that this technology was “greatly needed in our courts”..

Long-standing issue

Dr Joseph Farquharson, coordinator at the JLU at The University of West Indies, Mona, said that the language barrier in courts has been a long-standing issue.

“We have recognised that a lot of Jamaicans in the court system do not get due process because of the language that they speak. Sometimes the court doesn’t record what defendants say, if that is said in the Jamaican language and that is also because the transcribers, the clerks, do not have the wherewithal to do the recording,” Farquahrson said yesterday in an interview with The Gleaner.

“What you find sometimes is that they will summarise what the witness or the defendant has said. They will summarise it in English, and in that translation, especially because it is a translation that is done on spot, it is a translation that is done by a non-expert for what is a techincal matter so that is a problem.”

The JLU head subsequently endorsed the call by Sykes, as he believes it will help ensure fairness in the delivery of justice.

“So the chief justice is also forward-thinking and the Jamaica Language Unit is willing to have dialogue with the relevant authorities from the justice system how we can best meet the needs, because I think all of us have the same interest at heart, which is the interest of Jamaican people getting a fair chance at justice,” Farquharson said.