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I am not going to make any deep analysis, just a few assertions. Most Jamaicans are most comfortable speaking in Patois. It is well understood by most people living in Jamaica, or of Jamaican heritage living abroad. Patois should not be regarded as a second-class citizen to standard English.

Professor Carolyn Cooper is one of the great proponents of Jamaican Patois. I am not going to cite any of her works, because I have not read them, apart from her Gleaner articles. I am a great lover of the works of Louise Bennett, and I have read her works.

If we believe that formal situations (some, at least) demand that we speak English in a way that we think will make it easier for other English-speakers to understand, then we had better become proficient with standard English, in both written and spoken forms.

However, we should not deny the fact that most Jamaicans do not learn standard English at home and cannot have it reinforced by their surroundings. In that sense, it can seem ‘foreign’.

Trying to teach children standard English at school is right, but we need to find a way of not penalizing those who do not succeed in mastering it. By all means, reward those who do master it.

I left Jamaica as a young boy–six years old. I learned standard English at home and at school, and seemed to master it. Everyone around me in Jamaica spoke Patois and I mastered that too. I went to England and had to learn that my ‘funny speech’ was not too different from ‘Cockney’, and I managed to master the latter, too. I can speak well and write well in standard English. I can slide into one or other non-standard forms of English. I enjoy the linguistic gymnastics.

When I meet people in Jamaica, few of them address me in standard English, except in banks, some private firms (like Lime stores) and some government agencies. Everyone else, speaks to me in Patois. I am happy with that.

Some people who speak standard English, speak it very badly in terms of their own understanding of the language. Some cannot form full sentences in standard English; it’s clear, but incomplete. I never have trouble understanding what Jamaicans say to me in Patois.

I think Jamaica needs to take a serious look at other countries where Patois or Creole are spoken and written widely by the natives in those countries and see what lessons can be learned from elevating, not supressing such expression.

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