English first, JA!

Friday, September 14, 2012    

Print this page Email A Friend!


Dear Editor,

Lloyd B Smith's article in the Jamaica Observer of September 11, "H'emphasise your h'aitches", was a lot of nonsense. While patois remains and will always be an integral part of our culture, English remains our official language and greater emphasis should be placed on teaching and speaking English, especially in schools.

Mr Smith seemed to be promoting the idea that English should not be the official language, but should be replaced by patois. He cited with humour instances where Jamaicans attempted to speak proper English with twisted words and expressions. This happens all the time, since patois is a derivative of English in addition to West African languages. Most countries have dialects of their official language, that is, informal ways of communicating.

Learning English or any language, for that matter, is an ongoing process, even for those who have mastered it. Ironically, Mr Smith wrote his article in English. I challenge him to do a translation in patois and perhaps he will be less harsh on the mistakes made by anyone who erred in English.

Patois is a dialect we all learn informally while growing up. It is difficult to write and spell, as generally there is no formal structure or grammatical rules. It will always have its relevance in the Jamaican context. Sometimes the best way to express ourselves is in patois, especially if humour is involved.

Patois is a dialect we all learn informally while growing up. It is difficult to write and spell, as generally there is no formal structure or grammatical rules. It will always have its relevance in the Jamaican context. Sometimes the best way to express ourselves is in patois, especially if humour is involved.

There has never been a problem learning patois; it is essentially who we are. But why do we need to debate replacing English, or using patois to teach English in schools? Patois, like other dialects native to other countries, has no relevance or importance outside Jamaica. English remains a language that has international appeal in work and play; it is therefore to our advantage to do our best to teach English and use it as widely as possible.

As for Usain Bolt, I'm not sure what Smith meant by "being turned off" while listening to a Bolt interview. Would he prefer having a Jamaican interpreter beside Bolt translating his patois responses to English? If a person can understand the question in English, but can't respond in the same language, then the issue is clearly an intellectual one. Usain Bolt is educated enough and well aware of the scope of English. No doubt his global travels have helped.

Education is far more than what is taught at school; we learn so much by being more exposed. I therefore congratulate Usain Bolt, who consistently expresses himself well in foreign interviews with clarity and impact. This augurs well for our country and its image. Bob Marley spoke in patois, yes, but let's not forget his main forum for communicating was through his music, and the message in his music for the most part was in English. When he spoke in patois, it added to his aura, his mystique and overall "Jamaican-ness", which in no way undermined his ability to communicate effectively.

Linguistics is fascinating, and there is a place for both patois and English in Jamaica. But patois does have its limits, so this is really a non-issue. It is always interesting to note, however, that those who feel patois should be elevated nationally are usually well educated, with established careers, thanks to their superior communication skills in English!

P Chin

Canada

chin_p@yahoo.com

ADVERTISEMENT

POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

 

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper – email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT
[if "[var sectionurl]" isnot "video"]
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

Will you close your bank account because of Government's tax on withdrawals?
Yes
No


View Results »


ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT