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‘Just dweet’ - Jamaican Language Unit launches Patois petition

Published:Monday | November 11, 2019 | 12:22 AM

The Jamaican Language Unit (JLU) of The University of the West Indies (UWI) has ramped up its advocacy for Patois to be made an official language by launching a petition on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister.

Speaking at the launch of the petition at UWI on Thursday, head of the JLU, Dr Joseph Farquharson, said the move was a no-brainer because most Jamaicans converse in Patios.

“The services provided by the state should be available not only in English, but also in Jamaican, the language spoken by the majority of Jamaican people. By doing so, we would not disenfranchise any segment of our population,” Farquharson said.

The JLU is seeking to acquire 15,000 or more signatures to the petition in 40 days in order to force the Government to issue a statement on the issue.

The petition can be signed at

Professor Emeritus Hubert Devonish, who heads the linguistics department at the UWI, is also an associate of the JLU and was on hand to lend support to the initiative.

He is advocating for Patios to be made official because many Jamaicans who are not versed in the use of the English language are often marginalised when they are in the courts, in hospitals, or when being dealt with by public officials.

The negative stigma attached to Patios should be removed, Devonish contended.

“The idea is that we need to ensure that the majority of Jamaicans who have learnt Jamaican as their first language have all the same rights every day. There should be an end to the tittering, where they put you on speaker so everybody can hear how you chat bad,” he said.

Devonish said surveys had been conducted across the island and the results have shown that 70 per cent of those polled are in support of Patois being made an official language.

“We already speak two languages. International studies have also shown that children who are taught in their native tongue from early education straight through to the tertiary level do much better than those who are taught in the official language. We need to make it official. Just dweet,” he said.

The JLU also rubbished talk that taxpayers’ pockets would be burnt if public-sector workers had to be retrained in conversing in either Patois or English, depending on the needs of the caller.

“We have a linguistics department, why not let the students who are already subsidised by the Government draft and teach the course while we supervise it? That means the students would be doing while learning, and the cost would be absorbed in what already obtains,” he said.