Jamaican patois (pronounced "pot-wa") is primarily English, but to the untrained ear, especially deep in country, we often can't hear this. We stumbled upon some funny likkle things over the years that helped surprisingly will with our Jamaica accent/Patois problems and I would like to share it with you.
- Evidently, Jamaican English originated from the plantation bosses many of whom may have come from the Yorkshire Dales area of England. We had a favorite show that we watched, All Creatures Great and Small, and you can barely understand those Yorkshire farmers on the show. But after listening to these taped shows for some time before our Jamaican trip, we got to country and really were able to understand accents at a level never before achieved.
- Jamaicans speak English most of the time. Believe this as you listen.
- If you study some common Patios words you can fill in the meanings of unknown words. Try this Patios dictionary from Jamaicans.com.
- Drop the h on h words (erb, not herb) and add an h to others (hegg, not egg).
- There is no female pronoun- A speaker can be talking about a woman, then continue talking about him (im). Man did that get me confused, I would say, "who are you talking about?" Answer, him is a her, still!
- If you don't understand, ask the speaker to slow down. Experienced speakers in Jamaica know which words to leave out to get to the English pigeon language that we can understand.
- It helped me to realize that most conversation is shuck and jive about daily life and there is an incredable amount of politeness in the words that I am trying to understand.
- I am getting much more comfortable not understanding all that goes on around me and that helps.
Listen to " The Night Before Christmas" in Jamaican Patois