HOLLYWOOD – While experts debate whether Jamaican patois, or “patwa,” is a “real” language, people are not waiting for their conclusion: they speak it, read it, and write it every day. And one of the best places to learn about and use Jamaican patois is at the website Jamaicans.com.
Jamaicans.com is a labor of love for website owner, Xavier Murphy. The site has been providing access to “patwa” since 1995. He began translating storybooks for his children into the language and reading them aloud at home. Then he realized that there was a much wider audience for his efforts, especially among the thousands of native Jamaicans who are living in the Diaspora and eager to maintain ties with their homeland.
The Jamaicans.com website has provided a patois dictionary since 1995, and it now offers many audio/video documents in the language as well, including YouTube videos of Xavier reading the children’s stories his children enjoy so much. (His reading of “Whose Mouse Are You?” by Robert Kraus in patois is especially charming!)
Other Jamaican language features available under the “Speak Jamaican” tab at Jamaicans.com include articles on the socio-historical background of Jamaican patois, a Jamaican glossary so visitors can “Jamaicanize” their vocabulary by learning popular phrases, translations of common American expressions into Jamaican patois, and a selection of sound clips.
Jamaicans.com also created and published the first patois-based Internet shorthand and emoticons for use online. (Read more at http://www.jamaicans.com/speakja/patoisarticle/jcan_short.shtml.) And the users of the Jamaicans.com website have been speaking patois in the site’s forums (http://www.jamaicans.com/forums) since 1996.
Reading about Jamaican patois and “Jamaicanizing” the online experience is both fun and educational – and may even enhance listeners’ enjoyment of Jamaica’s already popular reggae music!