Is that really English? About Jamaican Patois

Is that really English? About Jamaican Patois
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Editor: The first time I heard the patois expression "han' miggle", I was completely flabbergasted... until I thought it through. It makes perfect sense... as do most Jamaican patois expressions - if you listen carefully. And I've heard "soon come" more times than I want to count! Want to know more about "han' miggles", "soon come" and other amusing Jamaican patois expressions? A few years back, wrote a series of hilarious (and truthful) posts about Jamaicans' creative use of the English language. For a good laugh, check out the other posts here. ENJOY!


English In Jamaica - Is That Really English?

By Larry M. Lynch
Walk with me along the white coral beach, palms sway in rhythm to tropical sea breezes while dust devils dance along stretches of vacant sand.

Can you hear it? Reggae beats drift through the air amid smells of spicy jerked pork barbequing over the red glow of charcoal grills.

Linger a bit longer and you just might catch a whiff of pungent "ganja" being smoked somewhere not too far away. There might be some Rastafarians nearby, you say to yourself.

Welcome to Jamaica.

English is the first language here, but without some specialized practice, fine-tuned ears and a healthy dose of linguistic patience, you very likely may not understand much of the local English "patois".

"Is that REALLY English?" you might ask yourself. Yes, my dear, it is. And a proud variety of English it is too. Indeed, to talk Jamaican patois is a unique experience.

One of the inherent tasks of teaching EFL or of communicating world wide in English as a lingua franca, is to fathom the language in a variety of dialects, patois, pidgins and their accompanying accents. Try listening to an reggae hip hop patois English song by Sean Paul as one example.

Talking Jamaican

Would you like to try your hand at "talking Jamaican"? Then try wrapping your tongue around these examples:

"A fe me cyar."
Translation: "It's my car."

"Mi a go lef tiday."
Translation: "I am leaving today."

"Sell mi wan bokkle a iyl."
Translation: "Sell me a bottle of oil."

"Dat a mi bredda."
Translation: "That is my brother."

"Coodeh, yuh see de big bud eena de tree?"
Translation: "Look at the big bird in the tree."

"Bwaay! Mi did tink de test wudda eazy."
"Boy! I thought that test would have been easy.

"Mi like yuh cris cyar."
Translation :"I like your new car."

"Yuh did see dat?" "A who dat?"
Translation: "Did you see that?" "Who is that?"

"She a mi bess bess fren."
Translation: "She is my best friend."

"Oonu can cum wid mi."
Translation: "You all can come with me."

Listen to Jamaican Speech

To hear the speech and sounds for yourself and for some additional examples, visit the site at: or Speak Jamaican at

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books, English language teaching and learning information at:

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One Comment

  1. I was given the oppurtunity to read the ebook dread talk, it`s a very interesting and informative ebook for those that want to learn jamaican patois fast.I definitely recommend it along with chat jamaican phrases book over at my site.

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