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What is Jamaican Patois?
Jamaican Patois is a language spoken in the country and by the majority of the Jamaican diaspora spread throughout the world. It is an English dialect with a very strong influence on the local language. It is also known as the Jamaican Creole language in which English, the primary language, is layered with a single, or multiple Jamaican local languages.
Origin of Patois
The Jamaican Patois is an English Creole language that derives most of its words and the entire slang from a West African language named Akan.
Patois is largely spoken in Jamaica and among Jamaicans in the diaspora. It derives its major influence and origin from the Akan language. The Akan language is popularly spoken in the Ivory Coast and Ghana. With the advent of English culture, English became the primary language over which the Jamaican Patois is built on, and it came to be widely used by people of the land.
The Jamaican Patois might sound quite unfamiliar to a newcomer because it is a mix of English, African and Spanish. The origin of the language began with colonisations over the centuries and gradually evolved to widespread adoption of this local language. While Patios is prominently spoken by Jamaicans, English is regarded as the official language. The citizens are capable of speaking the Standard Jamaican English, known as SJE, which tourists and people who come to Jamaica for various other purposes can easily understand.
As the official language of Jamaica, English is used in all government institutions and educational syllabi making it easier for the locals and visitors alike.
Fifty (50) Jamaican Phrases and Their English Translation
For a person who has just landed in Jamaica, Patois might feel pretty much like English but you may not be able to fully understand it because of the local slang and the mixture of languages. However, with this helpful guide and Apps out there, it should be easy to get a hang of what the Jamaicans want to convey with their unique way of speaking.
Weh yuh ah seh? – What are you saying?
Inna di morrows – See you later/tomorrow
Duppy Conqueror – A brave person
Mash up – Damaged or destroyed
Bless Up – Best wishes
Mi Soon Come – I will be right back/there
Nyam – Eat
Jamrock, Jamdown, Yard – Jamaica
Yardie, Yard man – Jamaican
Bredren (male), Sistren (female) – Friend
Big up, Respect – Well Done!
Sell off, Tun up, Wicked – Excellent!
Whappen?/Wah yuh a seh? – What’s up?
Mi deh yah/Everytingcriss – Everything is good
Wah Gwaan? – What’s going on?
Mi deh yah, yuh know – Everything is ok/I’m doing well
Obeah – Black Magic
Lickkle more –Goodbye/See you later
Chaka-Chaka – Poor quality/disorganized
Raggamuffin – Street-wise/tough guy
Kick Up Rumpus – Having a good time!
Likkle more/Walk good – See you later!
Zeen – I understand
Ova deh – Over there
Wha yuh deh pon? – What are you up to?
Mi nuh biznizz – I don’t care
Badmind – Jealous
Fling – Throw
De Party Tun Up – The party was great
Jeezum Pees!– Exclamation similar to ‘Oh My God!’
Nuh romp wid mi! – Don’t mess with me!
Small up yuhself – Move Over
Passa Passa – Mix Up
A long time mi nuh si yuh – I haven’t seen you in a while
Mi name… – My name is…
Mi deh… – I am…
Weh yuh come from? – Where are you from?
Gud mawnin – Good morning
Mi nuh kno – I don’t know
Mi nuh undastan – I don’t understand
Yuh talk Patwah? – Do you speak Patois?
Weh de bawtroom deh? – Where’s the toilet/bathroom?
Merri crissmuss! – Merry Christmas!
Call di police! – Call the police!
Move from ya suh!- Get away from here!
Fiah! – Fire!
Galang! – Leave me alone!
Gweh! – Go away!
Mi luv yuh – I love you
Making Life Easier in Jamaica with Patois
While locals can understand and speak Patois as well as the English language, newcomers, tourists and those visiting the country for work may take some time to understand what the people are talking about. The Android store has an App that instantly translates the Patois into English for easy understanding and it can also help people reply in an authentic manner.
Compared to how English sounds, the local slang is very expressive and colorful. Instead of spelling out the words or using the grammar, the people may just blurt them out as sounds. For a local, it will be very easy to understand but if you spend a couple of days or live long enough in Jamaica, it will be obvious that all the sounds are actual English phrases in one way or the other even though pronounced differently because the languages are mixed into one another.
Simple Guide to Understand Jamaican Patois
The advantage of visiting the beautiful island of Jamaica is that the official language is English. When you come across locals speaking a different dialect, there is always a way to have it cleared by your local tour guide or someone helping you out in understanding the location or situation.
With smartphones, traveling is easier than ever as there are dedicated Android and iOS apps to help you translate the Jamaican Patois into English. You can even capture the voice to translate it on-the-go. Besides, all the instructions and manuals are found in English. The Jamaican government offices use the official English language making it easier for outsiders to communicate instead of having to learn Patois in a few days.
Give the 50 Jamaican dialect phrases a glance along with their English translations. Most of them are phrases that you should be able to make use of during a visit or stay in Jamaica. It also helps to communicate with the locals in a much easier manner. Besides, it’s also fun to learn something new because the Creole language based on English is a completely new experience when compared to learning an altogether different language.