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2009/10 is designated "Year of Recognition for Caribbean Languages"

Learning Links International and Jamaica 2K seeking recognition for the languages spoken in the Caribbean.

Fifty Years On: Respect for Caribbean Languages Today
The first Conference on Caribbean Languages was held at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies just 50 years ago. The University of the West Indies has taken the lead for the last 50 years into the investigation of the range of languages spoken across the Caribbean. Many of these languages were created during the centuries when European countries engaged in the trading triangle that involved enslaving and shipping millions of Africans to work in the harshest conditions in South America, the Caribbean islands and the Southern States of the US. However due respect has still not been accorded to these languages which are spoken by millions of people across the globe today and little recognition is given for the bilingual skills of people with Caribbean heritage.

The languages of the Caribbean are amongst the most modern languages in the world and bring grammatical features from languages in Western and Central Africa, with vocabulary from the European sailors, enslavers and plantation overseers mixed with local Caribbean and African words. It is essential that as some of the most modern languages in the world and languages which had such traumatic origins, that these languages are now recognised, respected and studied.

In the UK Jamaican has gained official recognition from the Chartered Institute of Linguists and an accredited Practical Language course was offered by the Awarding Body Consortium, this is now the time to fully recognise, respect and accept these languages. A range of activities is planned during 2009/10 to develop understanding about and recognition for Caribbean Languages in the communities, schools, colleges, universities and other public services across UK.

A series of conferences and events is planned to start in June 2009 to enable the current status of these languages to be reviewed from a range of perspectives: from linguists, from educationalists, from speakers of Caribbean languages, from students of Caribbean languages and from the Caribbean communities living around the world.

This series will showcase the work of the Jamaican Language Unit at UWI, the Bilingual Project and their latest publications, and the achievements of the "Jamaica 2K" Team in the UK who supported Jamaican to be recognised by the Chartered Institute of Linguists and to be accredited by the Awarding Body Consortium.

One of the outcomes of the series is planned to be a publication "Respect for Caribbean Languages: the most modern languages in the world today" (working title) which will feature papers from the events and additional information, with CD/DVD materials and trainer support.

Range of areas to be covered during the series

  • Outline of the development and range of languages in the Caribbean
  • The implications of developing bi-lingual skills with a continuum between the new language developed and the European language which was combined with African languages to create the languages used by peoples from the Caribbean today.
  • Examples of use of bilingual teaching in schools (Jamaica)
  • Requirement in UK National Strategy for recognition of Caribbean Languages: see "Excellence and Enjoyment"
  • The development of English Language Support for Caribbean Language Speakers (UK)
  • Translation and interpretation requirements in legal and health services
  • Exploration of self esteem and mental health issues in the UK's Caribbean Community, related to disrespect and misunderstanding of the "heart languages" spoken by the community.

An additional range of activities will also provide the Caribbean communities with opportunities to celebrate these languages and the vibrant culture they are part of.

Special Language Colleges will also be actively engages to support their aim to raise standards of achievement and the quality of teaching and learning in languages for all pupils, using this as a catalyst for whole school improvement. This new focus provides the ideal opportunity to recognise and value Caribbean Languages.

We are establishing both an Advisory Group (with wider membership) and a Steering Group (of activists) and inviting the following people and others:

    From UK:
  • Professor Gus John, Supporter of the campaign to get recognition and respect for Caribbean Languages
  • Professor Peter Patrick, Linguist and Supporter of the campaign to get recognition and respect for Caribbean Languages
  • Natalie Fagan, Lead Tutor on the UK's first Jamaican Language and Culture course
  • John McAnuff, UK Senior Learner of the Year NIACE
  • Macka B, Reggae Artiste and promoter of Patwa
  • Liz Millman, Co-ordinator of Jamaica 2K, Director of Learning Links International and campaigner for recognition and respect for Caribbean Languages
  • Morgan Delphinis, author of Caribbean and African Languages
  • Garfield Robinson, "Promoting our Heritage"
  • Barbara Ledgister, Jamaican Attorney-at-Law and co-founder of Patois Personnel
    From Jamaica:
  • Professor Hubert Devonish, Karen Carpenter and members of the JLU
  • Yasus Afari, Performance Poet, promoter of Patwa, and "Ambassador for Jamaican Language and Rastafari"
  • Joan Andrea Hutchinson, Performer, Poet and "Ambassador for Jamaican Language"
  • Dr Caroline Cooper, Campaigner for recognition and respect for Caribbean Languages
  • Oliver Samuels, Actor and Personality "Ambassador for Jamaican Language"
  • Laura Tanner, Author and "Ambassador for Jamaican Language"

For more information contact:
Liz Millman, Learning Links International / Jamaica 2K

UWI Jamaican Language Unit launches book Video clip

Writing Jamaican the Jamaican Way/Ou Fi Rait Jamiekan is the title of the first commercial publication that was released by the Jamaican Language Unit (JLU), UWI, Mona on Wednesday June 1 2009 at 6 pm at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, UWI, Mona.

The launch featured a combination of digital and live performances, including budding dancehall artiste, Nickesha Dawkins, aka Gem Stone. She performed the specially writen dancehall song titled, "Writing Jamaican the Jamaican Way." It was hosted by animated personality, Emcee Jamtik.

Jamaican Language Unit to train interpreters - Jamaica Gleaner, 2008/07/14

The Jamaican Language Unit (JLU) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) is to train interpreters to assist Jamaicans, local and abroad, who go before the courts and have difficulty communicating using the English language, according to Dr Karen Carpenter, researcher at the JLU.

Although English is the official language of Jamaica, some people find it difficult to converse using this language. Patois or Jamaican, as linguists call it, is the language that is used and understood by most Jamaicans.

There is a growing need for interpreting skills in the United Kingdom (UK), especially in health and education and legal sectors, where there are misunderstandings when speakers of Jamaican are not understood. Carpenter said Jamaicans in the UK who struggle with the English language are assigned court interpreters when they go before the courts.
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Learning in Jamaican and English - Jamaica Gleaner, 2008/07/14

"Nuh ton hova di piepa til mi tell yuh we fi du," a teacher at the Hope Valley Experimental School, St Andrew, told her students before the beginning of an examination.

Under other circumstances, this reporter would have been taken aback because it is not supposed to be the norm for classroom teachers to speak to children in Creole.

However, this was the norm in some sessions for this grade-four class, which is part of the Jamaican Language Unit (JLU) at the University of the West Indies Bilingual Education Project, which started in 2004 and is scheduled to end this year.

The project is aimed at determining the most effective means of encouraging full bilingualism for primary-level students at grades one to four in Jamaican Creole and Standard Jamaican English.

It is designed to meet the needs of the large numbers of students who are native speakers of Jamaican Creole. These students enter grade one without attaining mastery in three out of four key areas of readiness to begin instruction at the level demanded by the grade-one national curriculum.
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Bible Translation Sparks Far-Reaching Debate - Christian Post, 2008/07/06

Kingston, Jamaica (AP) - Plans to translate the Bible into patois — Jamaica's unofficial language — have ignited a fiery debate that stretches beyond the shores of this island nation. Some Jamaicans object to the project because they say patois is an obscure dialect that dilutes the sanctity of Scripture. Others view the translation as an empowering statement that affirms their heritage. The debate continues as a Caribbean-based religious group searches for translators to help with the $1 million project. Religious leaders say the audio translation would make the Bible accessible to average churchgoers and to those who might not read it otherwise.
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Luke's gospel in patois by year-end - Jamaica Observer, 2008/07/03

Despite the firestorm of criticism, the organisation responsible for the translation of the Bible into the Jamaican dialect, patois, is forging ahead with the $60-million project, saying a pilot of the New Testament book of Luke in audio form should be ready by year-end.
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CVM experiment to broadcast news in patois - Jamaica Observer, 2008/06/27

Janella Precius, the CVM journalist who is spearheading the initiative, told the Observer Wednesday that the station would be experimenting with a section of the newscast in patois.

"It's an experiment," Precius had said. She pointed to the challenges of appropriate translation, the adaptability of news anchors and the reluctance of the Jamaican public to embrace the use of patois in an otherwise formal domain.

"This week we're working on whether Jamaicans are ready to accept patois and whether the legislative framework to formalise it is in place," she added.
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Patois Bible debate rages - Jamaica Observer, 2008/06/23

Debate continued to rage yesterday over a controversial project to translate the Bible from English to Jamaican dialect.

Jamaicans, both here and abroad, have voiced opinions for and against the Bible Society of the West Indies project which the Observer revealed on June 16 in a front page lead story.

Since then, the Observer has been receiving a flood of e-mail from readers commenting on the $60-million project. According to Rev Courtney Stewart, general-secretary of the United Bible Societies, the parent body of the Bible Society of the West Indies, 40 per cent of the New Testament had already been translated into Jamaican patois, and a portion of that translation, the Gospel of Luke, was now being reviewed by language specialists at the University of the West Indies Language Unit.
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Why they want a Patois Bible - Jamaica Gleaner, 2008/06/22

The people at the Bible Society of the West Indies and Wycliffe Bible Translators Caribbean have been beside themselves with glee. Why? They have never had it so good. Their Patois Bible project is getting a lot of publicity in the news media. That's publicity these faith-based organisations could never pay for.

The Patois Bible project began in the early 1990s. It was spearheaded by the Bible Society of the West Indies. Partners in the project included Wycliffe Bible Translators Caribbean and the University of the West Indies.

To date, the project has produced two audio recordings in compact disc format.

The first is 'A Who Run Tings' - a selection of readings from the gospels. The second is 'De Kristmos Story' - a selection of readings related to the birth of Jesus Christ. The project hopes to have the gospel of Luke available in both print and audio format by year-end.
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Controversy heightens over planned patois Bible - Jamaica Observer, 2008/06/21

Predictably an Observer lead story last Monday titled "Patois Bible" has set off a raging controversy, never far below the surface, over the usefulness of recognising the Jamaican dialect or patois as a formal language.

The plan by the Bible Society of the West Indies to publish a patois version of the Bible, that will cost $60 million and take 12 years to complete, sparked a flood of letters to the editor from Jamaicans at home and abroad and occupied large chunks of talk show air time last week.

While some persons see the move as brilliant, and a big step in championing the cause of the Jamaican language, critics have denounced it as a waste of time, effort and money. In any event, they argue, a patois version of the Bible would not be taken seriously and would somehow undermine the sacredness of the holy Scriptures.
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Patois Bible - Jamaica Observer , 2008/06/16

Controversial $60-million project needs 12 years to complete

A controversial project to translate the Bible from English to Jamaican patois will cost $60 million and take 12 years to complete, the organisers of the project said.

But the Kingston-based Bible Society of the West Indies (BSWI) was upbeat about the project, based on a commitment from its parent body, the United Bible Societies (UBS), to contribute a significant portion of the necessary funding.

The UBS's general secretary, Rev Courtney Stewart, was unable to say how much money the parent body would put in, but said it would be in the millions of dollars.

Stewart said the Bible Society had already translated some 40 per cent of the New Testament into Jamaican patois, and a portion of that translation, the Gospel of Luke, was now being reviewed by language specialists at the University of the West Indies Language Unit.

'No Lickle Twang' at UWI - Jamaica Gleaner, 2008/01/06
The significance and depth of Louise Bennett-Coverley's contribution to Jamaican culture is underscored by the number of areas the conference surrounding her at the University of the West Indies (UWI) this week will encompass.

Starting on Wednesday, January 9, and going through to Saturday, January 12, 'No Lickle Twang: Louise Bennett-Coverley, the Legend and the Legacy' will examine her work in and effect on theatre, language, cultural studies and literature.

As such, a number of departments at the UWI have combined their efforts to stage the conference, among them the Department of Literatures in English. Its head, Anthea Morrison, describes the four-day event as part celebration, part remembrance and an examination of how the legacy continues.

Valorise language
Morrison also points out that it comes at the beginning of the UWI's 60th anniversary celebrations.

"There is a wide range of issues, but at the centre is how Miss Lou taught us to valorise our own language," she says.

As such, it is significant that when the invitation for papers to be submitted for 'No Lickle Twang' was issued in English and Jamaican. And, considering Miss Lou's tremendous impact on the performing arts, it is appropriate that "we have a combination of panels and performance".

O-Love - Barbara Gloudon, Jamaica Observer, 2008/01/04

On the street, the hottest word is that no one wants to hear about Oh-Eight (as in 2008). Through as how we're experts at "hadding haitches", Oh-Eight would've ended up as "Ho-Hate". Well, the word from now on, we've been told, is to be "Ho-Love". Yuh tink we easy, nuh!

Note: We encourage English speakers to read Barbara Gloudon's column Fridays in Jamaica Observer. She infuses many Jamaicanisms into her writing, having introduced patois into her Star column "Stella Seh" as early as the 1960s. "Through as how" are separately perfectly normal English words but combined they produce a Jamaicanism that translates as "since." The limitations of anglicized othography are clearly evident here: yuh and nuh have differing vowel sounds but are spelt here as if they sound the same. yuh has the same sound as put and the vowel in nuh is similar to that in but. Cassidy-LePage orthography would render it as yu tingk wi hiizi no? which would differentiate correctly the two sounds and more faithfully represent actual speech.

Miss Lou accorded official funeral - Jamaica Gleaner, 2006/08/01

Jamaica's Cultural Ambassador Louise Bennett-Coverley is to be accorded an official funeral at the Coke Methodist Church in Kingston at 2 o'clock next week Wednesday.

Information Minister, Senator Colin Campbell, made the disclosure at the post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, yesterday.

Meanwhile, Transport and Works Minister, Robert Pickersgill, will lead a Government delegation to Toronto, Canada, to attend a memorial service on Thursday.
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Jamaica loses patois pioneer - Jamaica Gleaner, 2006/07/27

A woman of great stature, pride, creativity, intelligence and ingenuity; Louise Simone Bennett was an undisputed cultural icon to Jamaica. Unfortunately, the monument of Jamaican pride and culture that was Louise Bennett, fondly known as 'Miss Lou', died yesterday at age 88.

Anne-Marie Bonner, the Consul General in Canada, states "Miss Lou passed away at approximately 12:30 a.m. at the Scarborough Grace Hospital (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). My understanding is that she felt ill and was taken to the hospital."

Miss Lou was a theatrical genius, who was well known for her Anancy stories. She is much grieved by the close friends she has left behind.
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Jafaican - Multi-cultural patois rising in use - Daily Mail, 2006/4/11

It's called Jafaican and, slowly but surely, it is infiltrating the English language. The multicultural hybrid, based on Jamaican but with undertones of West African and Indian, is not a totally new concept but linguistic experts say it is becoming so common in the inner cities that it is beginning to eclipse traditional accents.

In some London boroughs, for instance, it has taken over from Cockney, the prevailing accent for generations, as inner-city white youths pick up the speech patterns of their black and Asian classmates. More than 40% of London residents are now from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The Jafaican name, conveying the idea of 'fake Jamaican', was coined on the streets rather than in the research rooms. The academics prefer 'multicultural English'. But the message is constant. Sue Fox, of London University's Queen Mary College, who is studying the phenomenon said: "People are beginning to sound the same regardless of their colour or ethnic background." She ruled out suggestions that the language is simply the result of white youngsters trying to be cool, continuing: "It seems more likely that young people have been growing up in London exposed to a mixture of second-language English and local London English and that this new variety has emerged from that mix."

What has emerged is a distinctive inner-London patois which borrows heavily from Jamaican creole, lifting some words unchanged. But it has been influenced by other speech patterns, mainly Bangladeshi and West African, with a little South American and Arab thrown in.

Observer Editorial supports boost for patois - Jamaica Observer Editorial, "Ignoring the supercilious," 2006/01/13

Last week's gift of $1.75 million by the Carreras Group to the Department of Linguistics at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) to help finance its research in Jamaican patois, is, to us, of more than passing significance.

As it should be to all persons who have an interest in Jamaica's development and believe - rather than just mouthing the notion as a slogan - that its people are the most important resource in this process. By so openly associating with such a project, Carreras has edged away from most of what is conventional wisdom in corporate Jamaica and among our country's intellectual elite: that there is little value to be gained by engaging in the language of the majority of the people, except as a source of theatre and comedy. And comedy as grotesque caricature.
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J$1.75-m for UWI 'patois' projects - Jamaica Observer, 2006/01/08

The University of the West Indies' Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy got a much needed boost last Thursday with a $1.75-million donation from Carreras Group Limited, to fund two of four projects to be undertaken by the department's language unit this year.
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Observer Editorial favors TESOL - Jamaica Observer Editorial, "Let's be pragmatic about teaching in Patois," 2005/11/26

... it is our view that there has to be an acceptance that English is not the natural, primary language of Jamaica and that it should be taught as a separate language. Don't assume that the children who enter school already have a decent foundation in spoken or written English. So we have to get back to basics, teaching English as a foreign language, very much as a teacher may do with French or Spanish.
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Majority favour patois as an official language of Ja - Jamaica Gleaner , 2005/11/2

A Majority of Jamaicans think parliamentarians should deliver their speeches in Gordon House in the local dialect, patois, in order to communicate better with the public.

This is according to an islandwide survey, which was conducted recently by the Jamaica Language Unit at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

According to the findings of the survey, "people who understand English will understand patwa (patois) but not vice versa",

"Piipl no tuu ondastan di spiiki spoki ... Most Jamaicans speak patwa," said a respondent from an eastern parish.

One thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 80 plus years, from rural and urban centres across Jamaica were surveyed.

When asked whether or not Jamaican (patois) was a language 80 per cent of respondents agreed. A further, 69 per cent felt it should be made an official language of Jamaica alongside English and 71 per cent of the population would like to have bilingual schools.

According to the Language Unit, "79 per cent of Jamaicans polled declared themselves speakers of both Jamaican and English, thereby recognising the bilingual nature of the language situation in the country". There was little variation in responses across all age groups.

Only 10.9 per cent and 10.5 per cent respectively of the entire population polled declared themselves to be speakers of English only or Jamaican only. Slightly more women (11.8 per cent) than men (10.0 per cent) declared themselves to be speakers of English only.
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The patois experiment... Mek we trai di patwa
Devonish tries to prove Jamaicans bilingual in primary school project - Jamaica Observer, 2005/11/20

Professor Hubert Devonish and his team of about 10 associate researchers are hoping to prove, through a four-year Bilingual Education Project (BEP), that instructing in the native tongue can lead to improved "performance and competence" in the content subject areas - that is, mathematics, science and social studies - and "fluency in language use of Patois and English."

Devonish is with the Department of Language Linguistics and Philosophy at the University of the West Indies, but his team is drawn from across faculties of the university.The project involves using Patois and English to teach students of grades one to four in the participating schools. Each English lesson is reinforced by the same lesson in Patois.

The language specialists have begun their experiment with the assumption that Jamaicans are bilingual.The team is guided by a survey conducted by the department, which found that the majority of Jamaicans recognise Patois as a language, have declared themselves bilingual, and felt that ministers of government should deliver speeches in Patois to allow for better understanding of national issues.
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The evolution of the Bilingual Education Project Jamaica Observer, 2005/11/20

"The children are more comfortable in expressing their opinions and the language (Jamaican) has led to better performance," Fender said. "The majority will definitely benefit from the programme and I have also seen where they are performing better," added Boothe. The project is wholly endorsed by Bridgeport's principal, Pearl Morgan. "The project has my full support because we need to recognise that we are a bilingual country," she told the Sunday Observer. "The spontaneous language is our mother tongue, but because we are ashamed of our language we cannot acknowledge its power," she added. "We need to use it to help as a language of instruction in schools because children can't learn what they don't understand."
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Award winning research - Jamaica Gleaner, date unknown

Professor Maureen Warner-Lewis and the University of the West Indies Press scooped the prestigious Gordon K. & Sybil Lewis award at the 29th Annual Caribbean Studies Association Conference (CSAC) in St. Kitts-Nevis recently. The winning work, Central Africa in the Caribbean: Transcending Time, Transforming Cultures was published by UWI Press in 2003.

The professor's research locates the origin of common Caribbean words, sayings, place-names and traditions in West Central Africa, from countries such as the two Congos, and Angola. The derogatory term 'butto' which means a vulgar person or one who lacks finesse is derived from the Congo word 'butu' which means rabble or crowd. Common reference to albinos as 'dundus' has roots in the Congo word 'ndundu'. 'Combolo' which is used in reference to a large group of associates or friends derives from Congo and Angolan word 'kombula' which means to group or assemble.

A new language education policy for Jamaica - Excerpts from Journal of English Teaching, 2000-01, page 2

In recent months, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture has been engaged in the development of a new language-education policy. This document is expected to influence the way our teaching and testing institutions approach the task of ensuring that adequate communication skills are developed in learners at every level, and that this is done in an appropriate manner.

As our teachers of English know, there are clear differences between the home language of most Jamaicans and the internationally understood version of Standard English used formally in official communication, and informally in some conversation and much written material, and particularly expected in schools. The society has thus been linguistically categorised as bilingual, despite the efforts of some no doubt well-meaning people to treat Jamaican speech as a non-language.

Still, there has been an apparent ambivalence in our attitudes to the Jamaican and English languages that we use. On the one hand, we proudly hail the achievements of Louise Bennett (at least, some have learnt to do so since Mervyn Morris argued the case for taking her work seriously, back in the 1960s); many relish the lyrics of our popular songs; and increasingly, we hear matters academic, political and commercial, discussed in the home language, on the radio and elsewhere. On the other, we often give greater respect to the speaker of English - and his views; we tend to ridicule the person who tries unsuccessfully to speak or write idiomatic English; and, there are still many who regard the Jamaican language as 'talking bad'.

The mark of the oppressor
For many, the issue has seemed to be 'one language or the other'. In the 1970s, the use of English was sometimes portrayed as the mark of the oppressor. For the late Morris Cargill (and now Chester Burgess), the Jamaican language was like the sounds made by Jonathan Swift's subhuman Yahoos. Traditionally, the school system has given recognition only to the official language, English, and there have even been schools which have fined pupils for using anything else on the school premises!

For many teachers of English, however, the reality of having two languages, and switching from one to the other as the occasion demands, has been recognised as an admirable thing. Their preoccupation, therefore, has been to guide their pupils into using each language appropriately, and into using it accurately.

Some will have seen, in The Gleaner of September 15, 2001, a report of Education Minister Senator Burchell Whiteman, defending his position "that Patois can legitimately be used in the education system" in responding to "critics of his support for the Jamaican dialect as a teaching tool". The report continues: "The dialect can be used to help students better understand formal English, the minister has said."

What the new policy document coming from Mr Whiteman's ministry will be doing, therefore, is giving support and encouragement to those teachers who have been heeding the advice of the linguistics researchers, and making both languages live in the classroom, while understandably placing a heavy emphasis on the acquisition of grammatical and idiomatic English.

Policy Options
The five likely options for Jamaica (are) described below.

  1. Declare the Jamaican language situation bilingual, ascribing equal language status to SJE and JC. Tailor instruction to accommodate this status, and permit instruction and assessment in both languages. Produce printed materials in both languages, and permit teaching in both languages, using appropriate instructional strategies.
  2. While retaining SJE as the official language, promote the acquisition of basic literacy in the early years in the home language and facilitate the development of English as a second language.
  3. Maintain SJE as the official language and promote basic communication through the oral use of the home language in the early years while facilitating the development of literacy in English.
  4. Continue in a bidialectal mode, but pay closer attention to the methods of instruction that will facilitate competence in the official language.
  5. Engage in immersion in English through exposure to literature and interactive/communicative strategies, while being tolerant of the use of Creole by students who experience difficulty communicating in the official language.

Policy Decision
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture recognises:

  • The Jamaican language situation as bilingual;
  • English as the official language;
  • Jamaican Creole as the language most widely used in the population;
  • Spanish as the preferred foreign language, owing to the geographic location of the country.
While option two is desirable, to facilitate language learning in Jamaica, like option one, it is not immediately feasible as there is no agreed orthography for Jamaican Creole. Besides, issues such as funding for an adequate supply of literacy materials, as well as political and social attitudes to Creole as a medium of instruction (Bryan 2000), particularly the latter, could present obstacles that are difficult to overcome.

The Ministry of Education and Culture, therefore, supports the third option.

Di wol fos bailinggwal ahn muos kampriensiv Jumiekan/Ingglish websait
The world's first bilingual and most comprehensive Jamaican/English website

Bakgrong himij adap frahn / Background image adapted from
Adolphe Duperly, Cornwall Street, Falmouth, dagerotaip/daguerrotype

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