Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Love For Jamaican Patwa

I have read with interest the conflicting views regarding ‘wi langgwij, Jumiekan.’ I once refused to speak it, as mastery of Standard English was an expectation of the highest achievers. In 2006 I left Jamaica to study in Canada, and now believe in giving official status to ‘Jumiekan’ alongside English. It is no longer a matter of English or ‘Jumiekan;’ I want to be literate in both.

In Canada I looked forward to speaking with my family, as only they could fully understand the seriousness of my concerns. ‘Momi mi tap iit enuh, so mi a get maaga. Mi kiaahn bada wid dem kaina fuud ya agen!’ The English translation reads: ‘Mother, I no longer eat and so am losing weight; I am tired of eating this kind of food.’ Are there actually people who speak like this in Jamaica? (I tease) My sentiments are accurately expressed with potency when I speak Jamaican; there is no ambiguity.

Jamaican is a colourful and dynamic language that is as dear to me as ‘mi Sonde dina.’ It is preposterous for one to discount another’s academic abilities based on their propensity for speaking Jamaican. ‘Uu kuda brait tel mi se mi a yuuz ‘inappropriate language’ wen mi chuuz fi beta hexpres miself iina Jumiekan? Mi av mi wan ina “CSEC English” ahn nobadi kiaahn tek dat frahn mi!’

While it is true that many who do not speak Standard English simply are not able to, I am revolted that some continue to relegate ‘Jumiekan Patwa’ to the status of a low language. ‘Wi biga dan dat man!’ The ‘Bad English’ we loathe will only disappear when we teach our people the difference between the two languages. Over the last week, I have spent countless hours perusing the website ‘,’ gaining literacy in ‘Jumiekan’ using the pre-eminent Cassidy- Le Page orthography. It is easier to learn than I ever imagined and I have fallen in love ‘wid wi langwij’ all over again. Seeing it in written form reinvigorated my waning patriotism and spoke volumes to the possibility of a fully bilingual society.


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