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A waste of time to teach Patois - Seaga

Published:Monday | April 11, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Seaga ... If you want people to be able to talk to one another in Jamaica and outside of Jamaica, it does not make any sense.

Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer

In a renewed debate for recognition to be given to Jamaican Creole, Professor Hubert Devonish of the Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy at the University of the West Indies has proposed that "language rights" should be recognised in the Charter of Rights. There have also been proposals for a Patois dictionary, a Patois Bible and for the language to be used as the main vehicle of communication at the primary level in schools.

However, former prime minister and chancellor of the University of Technology, Edward Seaga, weighing in on the issue, says it would be a waste of the country's educational resources to teach Patois in schools.

"There is no standard way of spelling a particular word in Patois," Seaga said. "If you want people to be able to talk to one another in Jamaica and outside of Jamaica, it does not make any sense."

He added: "If you look at it, government and commercial papers are all in English. Newspapers are mostly in English with a few Patois articles and Patois quotations in English articles. Television and radio are mixed with English and Patois and popular culture such as songs, DJ lyrics and roots plays are mostly in Patois."

important to understand the language

Education advocate Dr Ralph Thompson says it is important for teachers, especially at the early-childhood level, to understand the language as many students speak Patois fluently, even though some are unable to read or write it.

"If the early-childhood teachers speak standard English, of course first they have to be able to speak Patois as well because if you go into a classroom and can't speak Patois, you cannot connect to the kids," Thompson said.

Recently, Prime Minister Bruce Golding also weighed in on the debate. Speaking at a graduation ceremony at Kingsway High School, Golding said the debate about teaching Patois as a second language and translating the Bible into Patois signify an admission of failure. According to Golding, teaching Patois would be akin to saying, "We have failed to impart our accepted language of English, so we are giving up. This one can't work, so let us find another one that can work."

Said Thompson: "The good thing for children between zero and six is their ability to learn and grasp information quickly. The teacher can get their attention speaking in Patois, but reinforce English in the same sentence and you will see how quickly they understand."