Patois for the People

I cannot understand with all the criticism they are receiving Professors at the UWI  cannot switch their interest to some other language, say French, Spanish (Most likely) or even Portuguese, which would help our Olympic Effort in Brazil in 2016, and why we spend our time arguing over what is not;  and why a subject like patois? ( of which most countries have, but they call it ‘slang’)

The Minister of Education of Barbados has suggested, quite intelligently, that Spanish is the logical alternative for Caribbean People as we are close to Central and South America, and our business in exports would have wider options. 

But Some Professors of English in Jamaica have chosen Patois as the ‘sine qua non’ language, so much so a recent blogger called English “Our second language”. So the proposal stays:  “Patois” is the language, with English being the second, choosing a language which has no practical use, as a front for culture.

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Then we have a patois bible, which when presented to students the main response was “I can’t make any sense of this”. Then there is a request for the public to fund the teaching of this in our prep schools.


As far as I can see none of the prep  schools I know wants this dialogue taught in their schools. But if you insist that the Patois Bible is acceptable, sell as many as you can to raise the funds and finance your own project. If you can’t, then the acceptability of the project is non-existent, or the validity of your presentation is disingenous.

Can Patois be considered a language? The Concord Oxford Dictionary maintains that language has rules of spelling and grammar of which it is composed;  it has a system of grammar, of expression, and of syntax.  Patois does not  have a system to which may be added a new word, group of words, and thereafter construct orderly expression, it does not conform to any specific rules;  is not a dialect, which is defined in a similar fashion.  So there is no rule which may define these ‘ad hoc’ conversations, except to call them a “ slang”, which is a group of words put to-gether and intended to portray a message. This message can be given in so many ways, by different people, using similar but inconsistent dialogue.

Finally, distributing or selling a product involves a market. What is the market? It seems to be that of prep schools, Government and Private, are around accepting the children. In the final analysis It is the parents of the children that will decide if this subject is required, because they have to spend the money. If it appears of doubtful use they will discard it from their list, especially if they discern this subject matter is a waste of time, and a distraction.

Our youngsters can barely manipulate writing and speaking the English language.The ability to convey services, goods for sale, ideas which are useful, disappear in muttering and excuses of ignorance. Let us give up this excuse for a bad culture and go for the preferred way of public communication.

From my point of view, I will advocate other languages for my children, not this barrier to communication and corruption of the English Language.

By Ramesh Sujanani

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Oneil Shalom Mitzvah Hall

Mr. Ramesh, you have completely missed the point. Linguistics have consistently shown that Jamaican Patois is a language in every sense of the word. Most Jamaican, first language is Patois not English. A pilot programme was done some years ago which showed that students do much better at other subject areas when it is being taught in Patois. Also, if we should teach English as a second language (how we teach Spanish), our students would master the English language better. No one is advocating for only Patois. Our students must be able to read, write and speak English. Also, you… Read more »