Friday, April 9, 2010

A wa yu a say?

When we announced our move to Jamaica, many people said to us, I didn't know Jamaica spoke Spanish. Well, they don't, but because our missions career has always been in Spanish countries, people were surprised that we chose an English speaking country. Well, shall I say, English is the "official" language of Jamaica but it is definitely not the "heart" language.

In the Bible College the students are required to speak English, but when they are at my house playing Wii, it is definitely not English I hear! When we do business in a government building, it is English we hear. The minute we hit the street, it is definitely not English. What is this language I hear all around me and where in the world is a Bible in that language so I can learn.

When we learned Spanish in the language school in Costa Rica, listening to music and reading the Bible out loud were some of the easiest ways for me to learn the language.

Jamaicans speak what some linguists term as Jamaican Creole. Others call it AfroJamaican English while still others just simply call it Patois.

Patois has simplified standard English by disposing irregular past tenses and participles, irregular plurals of nouns, case variations in pronouns and the myriad irregularities of the verb "to be" and much more!

Some homes only speak Patois , so when the children go to school (where they officially are to teach in English) the students have trouble with standard English. I can see why. It is really different until you capture both languages. I am sure that some of our students have trouble with our standard English in the classroom. Maybe that is why some of their tests reflect trouble with a capital T!

In reality, Patois represents one spectrum of society here in Jamaica. Standard English represents the other spectrum, the majority of Jamaicans find themselves somewhere in the middle of those two.

Here we go, are you ready to learn Patois?

1. Terminal consonants such as T, D, P are usually omitted. For example, want is waan, spend is spen, crisp is cris.

2. Consonants are reversed. Film would be flim, ask is aks, shortage is shotrage.

3. New consonants are added. Fishnin, ongle is only, liar is liard.

4. B can take the place of V. Vex is bex, bikl is vittles, shoob is shove.

5. DL is replaced by GL. saddle is sagl, middle is migl.

6. DR can be replaced by J. drum is jum. jugs is dregs, junk is drunk.

7. J is replaced by D. just is dus.

8. Initial H is often dropped like have is av, or the H can be added to words like egg is hegg, heat is eat, woman turns into ooman or hooman.

9. Terminal sounds like OWN or OUND may be replaced by UNG. Ground is grung. down is dung. town is tung.

10. An R in the middle of a word can be omitted before a consonant. burn turns to bun, turn, tun, bird, bood, work is woot.

11. This is the only one that makes sense to this New R at the end of a word is omitted like, docta, sista, slippa.

12. There are no TH sounds in Patois. three becomes tree, through becomes true. thick is tick, thousand is tousand.

13. And this one is our favorite, TTL in the middle of a word becomes K. Little is likl, bottle is bokl, title is tikl.

14. Nouns plural are implied. One foot two foot, one man nuf man, one teet six teet (teeth) one iez two iez (ears)

Enough! Well here are some phrases.

Yu see dem pickny? Do you see the children?

Fi wa? What for?

A wa dat good fa? What is that good for?

Fran ya to deh. From here to there.

Gi I some, noh? Won't you give me some?

Mek shi gwaan. Make her go on!

Renee is doing real well with Patois. Her teachers use Patois even to teach and sometimes it is so confusing to me but she has caught on real quick. Of course making fun of the white girl is typical so she is shy about using it!

One of the Bible College students gave me Psalm 23 Patois style:

The Lord ah mi one boss, and mi nuh fi want nutt’n
Ah Him ah prevent mi from tell off people everyday
Ah Him ah gimme peace, when so-so madness a gwan roun’ mi
Ah Him ah remind mi fi pray and fi do everyting widout complain, murmur or kiss mi teef
Ah him ah remind mi dat ah Him, noh mu job, ah mi source, although lickle more pay woulda nice.
Him ah stap mi from mad a daytime, an ah guide mi decision dem, so mi can honor Him anna hev’ryting
Ah Him ah prevent mi from shootup di whole place, an tun all misupervisor dem inna some duppy so mi no haffi go ah prison, an live mongst ah bag ah battyman or get heng.
Even though mi get one whole heap of e-mail, fool fool deadline fi work wid, have some co-worker dem whey a chat mi behind mi back, some big heediat fi supervisor, an ah old body day kyaan’ mek it a morning time, mi nah give up because Him deh wid mi!
Him presence, Him peace, an Him power ah go si mi through…..

Well I go in search of a Patois Bible and Rosetta Stone..I wonder if I can have any success! Anybody want to come and translate Patois into written form? Wouldn't it be incredible to have Patois Bibles to take to communities! I think I have a new prayer...Lord give someone the inspiration to complete the task!

1 comment:

  1. Debby, That was really interesting! I did not know the Jamaican dialect was actually more of a language and was called Patois! I wonder if that's also where the thing of pronouncing "ask" as "aks" came from?