THE EDITOR, Sir:
In response to Dr Garth Rattray's column ('Unnu kyan reed Patwa?') on Monday, December 10, 2012, regarding the use of Creole in Jamaica, I would like to point out the following:
Dr Rattray says that some people believe that Creole is not just broken English but a separate language "because there are a few fragments of other languages in it".
Rather than a "few fragments", I should like to point out that it has the following differences, among many others:
1. It has a radically different phonological system.
2. It has a different way of expressing tense.
3. It has a different way of expressing verbal aspect.
4. It has a different way of expressing numbers.
5. It has a different way of expressing voice.
In other words, it has a different grammar. That makes it a different language.
Dr Rattray claims that Creole is very difficult to read, but he offers no explanation of why this should be so. I should like to point out that it is rather English that has a famously difficult spelling 'system', forcing its young learners to endure spelling classes for years. For instance, the pronunciation of the sequence '-ough' depends on the initial consonant: tough, dough, bough, cough, etc. Creole, on the other hand, has an ideal spelling system: there is just one sound for every symbol and just one symbol for every sound. What could be any easier?
An educational goal could be not to put an end to Creole, but rather to help all Jamaicans develop a fluent use of both languages and to enjoy fully the benefits of bilingualism.
Why not recognise that in Jamaica there are two distinct languages, each of which fulfils a number of important roles? One serves as the medium of academic discourse, serious literature, the press, education, international communication, etc. The other reminds the people that they are Jamaicans, that they share a common history and a language that emerged from that history and bonds them.
It is a language in which they all speak to each other during their warmer, less administrative, less academic moments. As more and more Jamaicans come to see Creole in this light, to translate the Bible into this language may not seem so outrageous an enterprise. It might even seem to make perfect sense.