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Patois as a first language: nonsense

Published:Tuesday | October 18, 2011 | 12:00 AM


I have read with keen interest the ongoing dialogue regarding the use of Patois in our Jamaican society.

I am really stunned at the concept that this should be now considered 'the Jamaican Language', and was floored by a teacher who suggested that English be taught as a 'second language', in pretty much the same approach we take to Spanish and French.

Have we lost our marbles? Unless our mode and method of conversation have changed drastically since I left Jamaica 40 years ago, the language that we spoke and called Patois was, clearly, simply broken English.

Yes, there are a minuscule number of words and phrases of African and French origin; however, the overwhelming substance of all our conversations were strictly of English origin.

This was made abundantly clear reading the piece by the shopkeeper from Manchester comparing pre-Independence with today's reality. The entire text was descriptive, colourful, anecdotal and done in Patois. Every phrase was clearly broken English.

To my point, English can be taught, quite easily, incorporating Patois. That's how we all learnt proper English. Ensure that the student understands the bridge between how we speak in Patois and what the proper English would be. It is really that simple.

Keep the dialogue going. Remember, we live in a shrinking world. We must be able to communicate effectively, and English is the worldwide means of communication.


Toronto, Canada

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