Patois and the Jamaican Identity Pt.1

Jamaican Cultural Dance

Jamaica, after 50 years of sovereignty has faced and is still troubled by serious problems. Some blatantly obvious like crime, perception in the media as ganja smokers who sit under coconut trees all day and more discreet troubles like the imperialism from the powers of the “West” and the emerging “East”.

These problems have always gained substantial respect and taken extremely seriously in academic discourse, however the problem of identity in Jamaica always gets pushed to the side. One of the many elements which is a uniquely Jamaican form i.e the Jamaican Patois is often mocked as “irrelevant”  though is spoken by Jamaicans at home and abroad and a “waste of time” though many still don’t understand why they speak like this when English is the national language.

People such as Carolyn Cooper Ph.D are often jeered and made fun of when they suggest Patois should be taught in schools. Some say it’s pure non-sense reason being “English is the language of the world/global trade” and having Jamaican youth learn about it’s context and complexities would put them at a disadvantage.

I seriously doubt Dr. Cooper is suggesting we should stop teach students English, instead we should teach them both the language spoken in their homes and the language spoken globally.

There are many who suggest that Jamaican youth just simply can’t learn ‘standard English’ and that’s reason enough to teach patois which I think is madness. The problem is Jamaican youth  have grown up hearing a particular dialect in their home and community while the same language in schools is seemingly banned.

Can you imagine hearing and speaking German all day but as soon as you set foot in a formal institution you should somehow condition your mind to acknowledge the fact that the way you speak is not welcomed here.

I like many other Jamaicans speak English and Patois very fluently, furthermore I have seen where Patois can be used as a means of identity in a fast pace world. Anytime I am abroad and I hear a traditional cuss out *argument* in patois it is a absolute joy. Jamaicans can easily identity one another from the way we speak and this gives us a sense of national pride to know that that’s our when we’re abroad.

The sad part is, as was said before we speak it, but for most of us we don’t understand its significance nor the fact that it weaves us together as a national, regional and global family and is a impeccable part of who we are as a diverse mix of people.


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