Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Teach English as foreign language

Published:Sunday | April 17, 2011 | 12:00 AM


I am certain that language and linguistic aficionados and authorities would concur with me that the Jamaican dialect (Patwa or Patois) is but a mere derivative of the standard English language and African languages; the dialect is very protean in content, structure, and sound.

Additionally, the dialect does have a positively strong correlation with our grasp and competence of Standard Jamaican English, as a result, stymying the ability of some of us to speak and write fluent English.

However, let me be quick to point out that unless an individual has a knack for language acquisition, the environment in which an individual is learning the language has a strong correlation with becoming a competent speaker and writer of the language, or vice versa. Moreover, it has been proven that exposing an individual to a language at the onset of his or her post-natal developmental stage is useful in language use and acquisition.

Interestingly, though, most Jamaicans are first introduced to the Jamaican Creole (at school, home or through other agents of socialisation). In the latter stages of our development, we learn Standard English in a fashion that presumes that we understand English. Therefore, having observed carefully the students (ages seven-20) whom I have tutored English language voluntarily, and my family members, I cannot help but notice that the dialect is embedded in the use and acquisition of the English language subconsciously, hence impacting our ability to use the English language well. Persons prefer to speak, and are more comfortable speaking, the dialect; the environment greatly impacts the acquisition and use of the English language.

Now, while I agree with the appreciation of the dialect, each and every Jamaican is to be given the privilege of being true bilinguals - not just some of us. I totally disagree with the canard that Jamaicans are bilingual. Truth be told, a lot of Jamaicans are not able to use Standard English! But then again, most of us can only speak the dialect. So where do the majority of Jamaicans fall in terms of speaking and writing a language fluently? Perhaps that is the reason the performance in CXC English 'A' and 'B' is so dismal annually.

Teach teachers

In summary, our teachers can be taught to teach and treat the English language as a foreign language from early childhood education through to CXC. In doing this, teachers will apply the same teaching pedagogy they would use in teaching Spanish or French, for example, as it is unequivocal that the dialect is hampering some people's ability to understand and use the English language to our advantage. I believe it is high time average Jamaicans show aplomb in their speaking and writing of the English language.

I am, etc.,