Sun | Jun 20, 2021

Needed: more exposure to English language

Published:Friday | June 8, 2012 | 12:00 AM


Every year when I mark English-language scripts for teachers in training, regardless of the year group, I am amazed at the kinds of errors that some students make. This leads me to take a good look at my own learning of English.

There was a time when we could say that in Jamaica we use British English, although it may be more accurate to say that Jamaicans were once expected to use British English given our colonial past.

Now, with cultural penetration from the United States of America, the lines are not clearly drawn. It is true to say that in Jamaica we have a grand mix of British and American English, and our own coinage like the noun from 'uplift' as 'upliftment'. The dialect of English that we use in Jamaica is the least of our problems. Our biggest problem is that our students cannot learn the English language from teachers who do not know the language themselves.

Reading a necessity

If we are to have the improvements we seek, we need to go back to some of those things that our parents and teachers did to help us to hone our language skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing and viewing.

We had to read at home. This was not optional. We had to read at school. We had memory gems and scripture passages and poems to recite. We did dictation. We had to speak English.

Our students will not lose their Jamaican Creole. They need to practise using English at home and school. Jamaican Creole is not the problem. Underexposure to the English language is responsible for students' lack of facility with the language at the tertiary level.