Letter of the Day | Don't neglect the people’s language
The EDITOR, Sir;
According to a Gleaner Online article, 'PM says time to make Spanish Jamaica's official second language' (June 7, 2016), Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared in Parliament that arrangements were being made for the teaching of Spanish "to facilitate increased interactions with tourists".
Please tread slowly on this issue, Prime Minister. A majority of students are patois speakers. The primary school is also an important site for research on the language because most or all of its entrants are patois speakers. English in the form of Jamaican Standard English is spoken by a minority in Jamaica. One would think that because patois is the majority language, it would be of great concern to policymakers. Even after 50-plus years of Independence, we do not have the will to accept ourselves in terms of our language.
Mr Holness, each time this issue of patois and education is raised, whether in private or in public, it is frowned upon. Independence was not accompanied by a new way of thinking.
Let me illustrate this issue of transformative education using the example of post-independence United States and Singapore. The former embraced a new philosophy, moving from colonial thinking in education to a new philosophy of teaching and learning that embraced a new approach to language, education for citizenship, education for cultural nationalism, and science for national development, among other changes. A new, independent and powerful nation emerged. The case of Singapore has many lessons for us, especially in its response to the creole-speaking groups of the city state.
The political leadership asserted that English is the language of education and business/international trade. The declaration was made and carried out, without any apology that English must be taught as a second language in order to facilitate education and intellectual development among the creole-speaking groups. Singapore is among the leading states in global educational performance, and is self-sufficient in food. It is also a significant player in global trade.
We have a habit of rejecting Jamaican culture. There was rejection of ska, rock steady and reggae.
This practice, indeed, is a crime. Let us learn to value of own way of speaking, and then let English be taught as a second language. Let us take care of home before we look abroad.
Louis E.A. Moyston