Letters to the Editor

Why re-invent the wheel?

Monday, September 03, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

I see no compelling reason to accept the recent strident promotion by some people for the use of patois in Jamaican classrooms, ostensibly to assist in the learning of Standard English. I think that the excuse of this being the best way to advance the learning of English is merely a cover for the real motivation of the pro-patois brigade; for example, a desire to use this issue to assert some sort of "cultural independence" vis-a-vis the "Queen's English", as I have often heard that language described by some Jamaicans.

For one, if the "Queen's English" were forced to eliminate borrowings, English would be hardly any better off than patois is today - mainly for oral communication. Francis Bacon refused to write his best works in English, because he doubted the survival potential of his native language as a leading European tongue.

Be that as it may, at the root, neither technology hardware (such as even skyscrapers, or spaceships) nor mental products of mankind such as language, mathematics and science, are solely the invention of a national, racial, or ethnic human group, though we all, as humans, like to pretend exclusivity, for psychological satisfaction, and uniqueness and "big up". But can builders of skyscrapers match the building technology of the pyramids, built without mortar? How's that for extremely advanced mathematical weight-bearing calculations? What about the very puzzling models of jet aircraft found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and now displayed in the Museum of Antiquities? What about the relics of African religions found on the back of the US dollar bill, and the Great Seal?

Jamaicans deserve to use English, without apology, if that is what they feel best enhances educational, business, and communications at this time. Our ancestors worked hard and without pay to enrich British slavers for centuries. As V Satchell opines in Jamaica, 1999: "...the profit generated by the triangular trade, involving sugar and tropical produce from the British Caribbean colonies... financed the Industrial Revolution in Britain." No one needs to tell Jamaicans to speak patois, where appropriate , but let's not re-invent the wheel.

Cathy Brown




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