Many years ago, during the debate, I spoke to maintain English as our language, and keep patwa as a slang. It is lucky they didn’t send out for two sticks and three nails.
I warned the public what would happen, but no one who would be effected listened.
I specify that ‘no one who would be effected’, for there were and are Jamaicans who would not be effected. This was and is, and will be, the Upper Class.
In all nations one will find an Upper Class. They speak a ‘known’ language. Whether it is French in Haiti or Spanish in Chile, or English in Jamaica, they set themselves and their children on a path to success.
They will be able to travel, to do business with Western nations, and be successful. They will maintain their position, falling no lower than the Upper Middle Class at the worst, because they can speak a known language.
The reason for the push to Patwa was not ‘nationalism’. It was the fact that in the 1970s the University was Free. And to get in was merit and merit alone. Applicants who were born and grew in the worst places who had gone to school, who had worked hard, who could read, write, and speak perfect English, were given places. The spoiled darlings of the richest areas who did not score as high, did not gain places.
The shock of the owner of the mansion learning her darling did not gain a place, and the son of the woman who cleaned the toilet did resulted in the push to insure that this never happened again. That never again would the commoner surpass the elite.
It was not enforced on the poor, they embraced it proudly. They were enthusiastic about Patwa, and raced to swallow it and eschew English.
This meant, of course, they would not gain places at University. This meant, of course, that they could not rise above menial, for they could not speak English.
Those, of the upper class could easily travel to America or England or Canada and fit into a society where they spoke the language. Those of the lower class had a hard road to follow for who would hire anyone who could not understand simple instructions in English?
Things reached the most embarrassing level in the 1990s when a deal was negotiated to bring forty thousand jobs to Jamaica in call centres. Unfortunately, there were not forty thousand Jamaicans who were unemployed who could speak English.
Those jobs went to Trinidad and to Barbados, because English is spoken in public. There were forty thousand people who could fill those positions in other islands.
In Jamaica, translators are required, and in many of the investments made by the Chinese they bring their own staff because there are not enough English speakers in Jamaica to do even simple tasks.
If one tells a Jamaican, “Avoid connections on the pillar as they are active…” a Jamaican will not comprehend. One can tell a Chinese employee in Chinese not to touch it and he will understand.
In the professions, even though one virtually scraps under the barrel to find females to be trained as nurses, the fact is the majority doesn’t understand English. The few that do will be head hunted by Western nations which often do not have enough applicants for nursing school, as it is not well respected.
In Jamaica, the level of nursing is so poor that entering a hospital here is more dangerous than a field hospital in a war zone. Developing infections, some life threating, losing limbs because of sheer neglect, is common.
The fact is, that with nurses so ignorant of proper sanitation, one can’t expect better.
This is just one aspect of the inability to speak English. The fact that simple things are not comprehended.
The point of language is that if you don’t have the words you can not describe and control your world. You can not think of what you can not describe.
For example, suppose you have a small bucket of water in your hand and you swing it around in a wide circle like a fan the water won’t fall out. Even though the bucket will be upside down, the force of the spin will keep the water in the bottom of the bucket. This is angular momentum.
If you know about angular momentum you will understand the principles of physics. If you don’t know the laws then you won’t understand why it happens, and can’t understand how to extend the principle to other things, and know that if a descending elevator stops too short too fast people will slam into the ceiling.
This example is what happens when you don’t have words for events or ideas and so you can’t think of them. A Jamaica, with the limitations of patwa can not translate terms or idea into the clarity necessary. So where an English speaker can say; “John arrived shortly after Brian departed, and within five minutes we heard the gun shots…” a Patwa speaker would say, “John did deh dere. Brian did deh deh but him gone when me hear gun shot…”
So that one would not understand the time limit, which could effect the guilty/innocence of John.
The example I give is far clearer than in real life.
The fact is that many Jamaicans do not understand English today and have destroyed themselves. They have been unable to gain jobs, unable to communicate with non-Jamaicans, and even stumble when they speak to each other, because there is no precision.
That is because a pidgeon, such as patwa is not a language.