Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index
Latin America & Caribbean
Middle East
South Asia
Last updated: 07 February, 2011 - Published 11:52 GMT
Email a friend   Printable version
Forum: dialect dilemma
Caribbean street scene
The place of Creole or Patois in Caribbean society continues to divide opinion

There's renewed debate in the Caribbean - some might say that in never ended - on the place of Caribbean dialects, Creole, Patois or 'native languages' as some refer to them.

At issue is their acceptance, and in the case of the English-speaking Caribbean, their place in an environment dominated by the English language in education and commerce.

A group of experts have signed a Charter for Language Rights and Policy for the Creole-speaking Caribbean, coming out of which are plans for a Regional Council of Language Policy and Rights.

This policy document is to be presented to regional governments as well to Caricom and the United Nations Education and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) for adoption.

This issue continues to divide opinion.

In some countries in the Caribbean the local Creole is taught, while in some other circles it’s frowned on.

So what do you think?
What should be the role and place of Creole or Patois in Caribbean society?


The debate wrongly assumes that we in the Caribbean do not have the capacity to learn and use many languages efficiently including our own Creole. I love the sense of identity that Creole and Patois from the Caribbean gives me. Let's continue to build on our cultural diversity and protect our domestic languages. As the world becomes smaller through globalisation, we should of course be solid in our English language as well as other foreign languages to improve our people's marketability, but our home language will always give us root.
Elliott Paige
Geneva, Switzerland

98.9% of our Caribbean people are versatile in speaking. We speak fluently the 'Queen’s' English and Dialect. I have been arguing for quite some time that our Dialect is ours and we should be proud of the way we speak. (De wey r we tark is apart a r we identity: The way we speak is apart of our identity.)
Donya Francis
St Paul's, St Kitts

I think that we should give the Caribbean's Creole as much respect as Standard English. It is what distinguishes us from one another, allows us to speak comfortably with our fellow countrymen and adds to our rich culture. However, I agree that the various Creoles should be used in context, for example when talking with peers and family. Although I am saying that we should give respect and appreciation to the dialect of the Caribbean, we must not become so myopic and nationalistic that we automatically assume everyone else would understand your dialect. We should appreciate each other's dialect, not just our own.
Shineco Sutherland
Georgetown, St. Vincent

We must embrace and celebrate our vernacular – dialect – patois - creolised languages across the Caribbean be they from African, English, French, Dutch or Spanish origin because they contribute to that cultural identity - traditional make up and expression of our thoughts and emotions as described above. However, they have their limits in communicating to the wider world. You need the standard languages to accomplish this! Creole or patois languages are best supported, promoted and celebrated in a cultural context and their formalisation or attempt at standardisation would spell disaster for the individual and the country. Neither Microsoft Office nor your Caribbean Regional Economic Report will ever be delivered in your particular island patois!
Gerald La Touche
Birmingham, UK

The Caribbean countries should insist on their people speaking, writing and reading languages that the people would use to interact with a global economy. This is critical when every country is trying to trade with others. Creole and dialects disadvantage people.
A J Morgan

Creole and Patois are firmly part of our Caribbean identity, and I see no reason why it may not be adopted as a national language in its country of origin. Before this can be done, there needs to be the standardisation of pronunciation, spelling, grammar, and syntax for each in its particular country. Further, for the sake of practicality it should be accepted as one of two national languages in that country (e.g. French & Creole for Guadeloupe, and English & Creolese for Guyana).
Dia Christian
Georgetown, Guyana

English is the hardest language to speak. In England and throughout the English-speaking Caribbean Islands, each island speaks their different dialects; that’s the people culture.
John A
Brooklyn, USA

Creoles should be recognized as national languages in the countries where they're spoken, especially as they are the only language for many citizens. In Jamaica for instance, where the myth that English is the mother tongue and national language prevails, Patwa speakers are at a huge disadvantage. They are expected to negotiate official spaces such as court roooms, government offices, schools and universities which communicate exclusively in English.
Annie Paul
Kingston, Jamaica

It’s all about pride in who we are. What we frown upon is admired by many who try to copy it. What is proper English anyway?
St. George's, Grenada

I believe that the Caribbean people should be encouraged to embrace what is ours. Yes, we need the formal English for business purposes but as the French, Spanish and other nations have their own language, Creole, Patois and other native languages are ours.
Denise C
D'Abadie, Trinidad and Tobago

I think that Creole languages should be taught in Caribbean and foreign schools. It is the first language that many speak in the Caribbean. That’s what makes us who we are. Here is an example of English Creole: wat do dem? (What’s wrong with them?) Also, in French Creole, one would say, "John is too-tool-bay over Mary". I do not know whether you will agree that this is a good description of being love sick, but "totalement bete" means completely stupid.
Crage Mcbain
Sauteurs, Grenada

By devaluing patois, we wound children who have been hearing patois from the time they born. Patois is as natural to them as mother’s milk. We may also be reviving the last vestiges of British colonialism that suppressed the “local” tongue throughout the Empire. The British did it in Ireland, India, and the Caribbean. The French and the Dutch also practiced the same policy in their territories. This has been a long standing practice of conquerors since Nimrod was a boy.
Instead of saying to our children, “You are less than others” for speaking patois, we should be saying, “You are someone. We can help to make your light shine even brighter by learning Standard English, Spanish and … perhaps Mandarin?”
Language is breath is life.
Geoffrey Philp
Miami, USA

Unfortunately for me, as a Vincentian, I know only English and our local dialects. Since I migrated to the USA,I have many friends from St.Lucia, Grenada, Trinidad, Barbados, Suriname, Guyana, Jamaica, Antigua, Dominica and Haiti. We learn from one another and since we can relate to one another, I personally see nothing wrong in accepting one another's dialects, creole, patois or native languages.
We are ALL human beings and each one can teach one so we all come away with a plus.
Ormond Robertson
Snellville, Georgia USA

* optional
Your opinion
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Email a friend   Printable version
^^ Back to top
  BBC News >> | BBC Sport >> | BBC Weather >> | BBC World Service >> | BBC Languages >>