Jamaican Patois is a dialect of English mostly spoken by people in the Caribbean country of Jamaica. Most if not all if Jamaica’s citizens all speak this dialect primarily and will even continue speaking it should they choose to move to a new country. Patois is commonly referred to as “broken English” by both Jamaicans and people seeking to learn it’s speech. The differences between Jamaican Patois and American English is simple yet vast.
To understand Patois, it is important to know a bit of its history and how it came to be the dominant language spoken in modern Jamaica. During the time of slavery between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, slaves were sent to Jamaica to work on sugar plantations. Wanting to lower any possibility of rebellion, slave owners and other colonizers forced the slaves to speak English; hoping that any talk of escape would be caught immediately. The “broken English” over time began to stabilize into what is known as modern Jamaican Patois that is spoken throughout the island, as well as many other places in the world where Jamaicans congregate; one example of this would be Toronto Canada.
Jamaican music has a lot to do with the interest in the language among the masse. Reggae (A genre of music originating from Jamaica in the 60s that utilizes offbeat rhythms and a slow tempo to) music sung by people like Bob Marley and other popular artists brought the dialect into western eyes in countries like America and Canada as well as eastern countries like the UK and even Asian countries. Though people could not understand the lyrics of the songs, they were filled with the soul of the music. As such, despite the difference between dialects; people were able to connect to each other.
One key difference between Patois is in many phrases. A few examples of this is as follows: “Don’t go there” becomes “Nuh guh deh”. “Come here” becomes “Come yah”. “You’re a liar” becomes “You is a liad” or “You a liad”, and “Why are you lying” becomes “Wha mek you so lie”. Even short insults extend in length with “You’re an idiot” becoming “You mussi born back a cow”. Simple words, like phrases, are also different in Jamaica with examples such as “Smelly” becoming “frowsy”. Stores being called shops, Americans being called Yankees, and any overseas country is called “Foreign”. Other examples would be children being called “Pitneys”, Boys being referred to as “Byai” and girls as “Gyal”.
Though Reggae and such brought a positive interest to Patois, it still did not and does not stop people from regarding Patois as a “Ghetto” dialect. What I mean by this is that some people will hear Patois and assume that the person speaking it is uneducated or poor. This is likely due to the fact that Patois, again, can be rather difficult to understand. Another reason is that Patois is also heard in entertainment through mediums like rap music or characters in television shows who are usually stereotypical.
To conclude, Patois; like every other dialect, has its own history as well as its stereotypes. Though different attitudes exist about Patois, the only way to properly formulate your own opinion would be to go out and converse with a native speaker. You’ll find that despite speaking the same language, you’ll find yourself learning a whole new dictionary of words and phrases. There even exists wall scrolls that teach you how to speak Patois and what different Patois phrases translate to in Standard English.
1. Did I give enough information regarding the history of Patois
2. What can I do to further explain the differences between Patois and Standard English?
3. Are there too many Standard English to Patois Phrases and words? Should I add more or take some out?