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Speaking Jamaica Patois


Permalink 01:09:09 pm, by Melba
Categories: Culture

Speaking Jamaica Patois

The official language of Jamaica is standard English however many Jamaicans especially in the rural areas can be heard conversing in a language that is not quite English. Some will tell you it’s a bastardize English called Patois or Creole. It is not taught in schools but passed down through the generations. There is no official dictionary published hence you will find different spellings for each word. For example, the word Patois can also be seen spelt as Patwa or Patwah. In fact may Jamaicans will tell you they cannot read patois only speak it.

So how did this language originate. The original inhabitants of Jamaica are believed to have been the Arawaks or Tainos as they are also called. In 1494, Christopher Columbus discovered the island and enslaved the Arawaks. During the Spanish colonial period from 1494 to 1655 the Spanish also transported hundreds of West Africans to the island to work as slaves. Then in 1655 the English invaded the island and defeated the Spanish. The British rule ran from 1655 to 1962 when Jamaica became independent. During the British rule, sugar was the main industry.  The English needed labourers for their plantations and brought hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans to Jamaica.

As you can imagine communication must have been a challenge for all. I imagine the slave masters would simply beat the slaves into doing their bidding however the slaves who were mostly from different tribes throughout Africa needed to find a common language to communicate among themselves. It is believed that the Jamaican Patois evolved from a combination of the Spanish, English and African languages as the different cultures were forced with the need to communicate.

There are many variations to the Jamaican Patois however there are some basic steps that if you speak English and followed these steps can have you speaking some patois in no time. I will attempt to outline these steps in three phases. In this article, we will look at some simple changes that can be done to some standard English words that will get you the attention of any true Jamaican.

Most important thing to speaking patois successfully is attitude. Most persons are usually intrigued with Jamaicans as they speak because of the energy and passion with which the conversation takes place. Some are even afraid as they believe that the parties are having an argument which in most instances is not the case. You don’t need to be loud when speaking patois just articulate with your hands a lot and exaggerate your body movements for emphasis.

Lesson # 1- Pronouns

A pronoun is a word which takes the place of a noun, example he, she.

Pronouns you need to remember are:

· Mi – me

· Im – he, she, him or her

· Dem – plural of im

· Wi – all of us

Example: Wi a go.

We are going.


Lesson # 2- Words ending in “er” or “or”


“a” is substituted for “er” or “or”.

· Doctor – docta

· Bigger – bigga

· Sister – sista

· Factor – facta

Example: De docta a com.

The doctor is coming.


Lesson # 3- Words beginning or ending with “th”.

Substitute the “th” with “d” or “t”.

· The - de

· With – wid

· Thanks – tanks

· Teeth – teet

Example: Im tink seh mi nuh know.

He thinks that I don’t know.


Lesson # 4- Words ending with “le” with a double “tt”.


The “tt” becomes “kk”

· Little – likkle

· Kettle – Kekkle

· Bottle – bokkle

· Settle – sekkle

Example: De kekkle boil yet?

Has the kettle boiled?


Lesson # 5- Words beginning with a vowel


Place a “h” before

· Add – hadd

· Apple – happle

· Other – hother

· Enter – henter

Example: Who heat mi happle?

Who has eaten my apple?


Lesson # 6- Words beginning with a “h”.


The “h” is silent

· Honey – oney

· Holy – oly

· Honourable – onerable

· Oil – hile

Example: Mi love oney.

I love honey.


A few Jamaican words that just are:

· Cuyah – Look at that

· Badda – Bother

· Labba labba – Talks too much

· Pickney – A young child

· Tallawah – Strong


Test J.

Can you say the following in Jamaica patois.

1. The bottle is empty.

2. My mother loves ginger tea.

3. I cut my little finger with the paper.

See if you are correct in my next article.


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Reasons why I love my Jamaican Mom

1. My Mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.
"Just wait till we get home."

2. My Mother taught me about RECEIVING.
"You going get a ass'n when we get home!"

3. My Mother taught me to MEET A CHALLENGE.
"What di backside yu thinkin'? Answer me when me talk to you...Don't talk back to me!"

4. My Mother taught me CONSEQUENCES.
"If yu run cross de road an' cyar lick yu dung, a goin' kill yu wid lick."

5. My Mother taught me THE VALUE OF EDUCATION.
"If yu no go a school, yu a go tun tief or walk an' pick up bottle."

6. My Mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE.
"If yu tun over yu eye lid an fly pitch pan it, it a go stay so fi evva."

7. My Mother taught me to THINK AHEAD.
"Is not one time monkey goin' wan' wife"

8. My Mother taught me ESP.
"Yu tink a don't know what yu up to nuh?"

9. My Mother taught me HUMOR.
"If yu don' eat food, breeze goin' blow yu 'way."

10. My Mother taught me how to BECOME AN ADULT.
"Come an' tek yu beatin' like man."

11. My Mother taught me about SEX.
"Yu tink say yu drop from sky?"

12. My Mother taught me about GENETICS.
"Yu jus' like yu faada."

13. My Mother taught me about my ROOTS.
"Yu tink mi come from "Back A Wall?"

14. My Mother taught me about WISDOM OF AGE.
"When yu get to be as ol' as me, yu wi understan'."

15. And my all time favorite... JUSTICE.
"One day wen yu have pickney, a hope dem treat yu same way."


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