Jamaican Translation: What you See and Hear Is Not Always What you Get

Jamaican translation is quite unique. In fact, it can be quite difficult because terms differ from traditional English in many ways as does the grammar.

For example, the term, “Rude boy”. This slang term is distinctly Jamaican, and like most other things, has become a part of Western English speaking culture, as much as it is a part of Jamaican culture. Despite it being part of English speaking culture outside of Jamaica, you cannot really translate this into standard English. A rude boy is NOT a boy that is rude. In fact, a rude boy (rude bwoy) is a bad boy, but it can also be a bad man. This is not to be mixing up with the term “badman.”

Another thing to remember is that not everyone will speak the same version of Jamaican Patois or Jamaican Patwa. People in the Jamaican Countryside speak differently from those in the cities and people of a certain socioeconomic status are likely to mix Standard English. The good is that Jamaican Patois can be translated into just about any other language on earth. Jamaican sayings, however, do not translate exactly to every language. The reason for this has to do with things or aspects of Jamaican culture. For example, the Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and there are many expressions that involve the word Ackee, but would you really be able to apply that to the uninformed Canadian or Frenchman? Probably not, but you can translate as closely as possible to another language or culture.

Idioms are the basis for speaking Jamaican Patois. Patois translation phrases can be short and concise or long and complicated. Longer sentences are more involved and require more study to translate accurately.
You will not be able to translate them without assistance. It may help to study both, British and American English, as well as Spanish. All three dialects combine to form Jamaican Patois. When translated to English, Jamaican Patois may at first sound like a mish mash of African and English. And it is.
Originally, Jamaican Patois was created to help slaves and British dictators to communicate, but it quickly evolved into its own entity. This is why Patois is so similar to British English. Patois was also influenced by slaves and morphed into a language of its own, experts say.

However, Patois is not distinctly English. Pronouns take one form. Pronouns are not altered with different subjects, such as he or she; they remain the same, no matter what. The first person singular version of I is mi or me. The plural version is wi. “Im talk” translates to mean he talks, he will talk, and he talked. Mi encompasses the past, present and future verb tense.

Whatever you’re situation, learning how to speak Patois is fun and can help get a further insight into the culture, traditions and music of Jamaica.