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
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
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
- Translation and interpretation requirements in legal and health
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Morgan Delphinis, author of Caribbean and African Languages
- Garfield Robinson, "Promoting our Heritage"
- Barbara Ledgister, Jamaican Attorney-at-Law and co-founder of Patois
- 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
- Dr Caroline Cooper, Campaigner for recognition and respect for Caribbean
- 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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Jafaican - Multi-cultural patois rising in use - Daily Mail,
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.
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.
Observer Editorial favors TESOL
- Jamaica Observer Editorial, "Let's be pragmatic about teaching in Patois,"
... 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.
Majority favour patois as an official language of Ja
- Jamaica Gleaner
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.
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.
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."
|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
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.
The five likely options for Jamaica (are) described below.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Continue in a bidialectal mode, but pay closer attention to the methods of
instruction that will facilitate competence in the official language.
- 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.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture recognises:
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 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.
The Ministry of Education and Culture, therefore, supports the third option.