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Jamaican Language

Check out this great site www.jumieka.com

Tel nou, Jumieka Taak a honggl wahn huoral langwij, paas dong an tu an, chruu wod-a-mout. Di fyuu piipl we chrai fi raiti raiti aal difran kain a wie so no kaman aatagrafi no de tel ebribadi dis kankluud sei aad fi riid ahn rait an dis no bada widi. So wi no gat no badi a lichicha fi luk pan muo dan fi Klaad Makie ahn Luiiz Benit puohim an fyuu Nansi tuori ahn refarans buk. Kiasidi ahn LiPiej, Jamaica Talk, ahn Kiasidi, Dictionary of Jamaican English a di habvios exepshan. Wi a chrai wid dis fi bil pahn wa dehn du aredi ahn opdiet di rekaad wid nyuu wod ahn yuusij we hinchajuus sens dem poblish.

In translation: Up until the present day, Jamaican has been an oral language, passed on by word-of-mouth. The few people that have tried to write it, have used differing systems, with no common orthography. The conclusion has been then that it is difficult to read, so most do not attempt to either write or read it. So we have no body of literature to speak of beyond Louise Bennett, some Anansi stories and a few reference books. Cassidy and LePage’s, Jamaica Talk, and Cassidy’s, Dictionary of Jamaican English are the obvious exceptions. This website is an attempt to build on what they have done and update the record with new words and usages introduced since they were published

Supported by the Chartered Institute of Languages,  Jamaica 2000 has been the only active UK research and campaining body to support the work of the Jumeikan Langwig Unit at UWI.  See this article Worth shouting about – Guardian  written by Polly Pattello in 2003.

Caribbean languages are the living legacy of the Transatlantic Trade in Africans, they are created from the European languages as they were spoken by sailors, plantation workers and gentry, the languages of the Africans and the original languages spoken in the Caribbean.

Languages develop and change constantly – some of the most modern languages in the world today are the languages of the Caribbean, which makes a joke of the term “Modern Foreign Languages” which is used today in education in the UK. These languages used in everyday life, as well as reggae, rap and dub poetry are expressive and vibrant. In the past few years with help from linguists at the University of the West Indies, people in the Caribbean are recognising and valuing their bilingual skills.

English, French, German and the other European languages have been created over thousands of years with waves of invaders making their way of speaking the language of power, introducing new vocabulary and fashions in speaking to create the languages we know and use in Europe today.

The Africans who were forcibly taken as slaves to the Caribbean islands to work on plantations came from a range of different African language speaking communities along the West African coast. The first sailors from Europe and local West Africans spoke in “pidgin” to get by and trade goods. However when hundreds of thousands of people from Africa were forcibly taken to the Caribbean islands as slaves the necessary communication between Africans, and between the Africans and the European people, became “patois”. Today the nations of the Caribbean are recognising the years of development that have created distinctive languages spoken on the different islands, which are used alongside the European languages used.

Professor Hubert Devonish and his team at the Jamaica Language Unit based at the University of the West Indies Department of Linguistics leads on the recognition of these languages and is carrying out a number of projects. The use of Jamaican and English in the Jamaican Bilingual Primary Education Project is being closely monitored and initial results show higher levels of achievement in English, when taught alongside Jamaican. The children understand and fully value their bi-lingual skills.

Respect is well overdue for the fascinating languages of the Caribbean and their heritage.

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