Jamaican and Scots

A few weeks ago I had an interesting discussion with a Jamaican poet about the Jamaican language. He told me how it is being standardised and used as a medium of instruction in schools, and is now considered a language in its own right. One advantage of using Jamaican in schools is that pupils who are hesitant to express themselves in English feel much more comfortable using Jamaican, and according to an article I found today, pupils educated bilingually in Jamaican and English tend to achieve better results and have better literacy skills in both languages than those educated solely in English.

In related news, the use of Scots in Scotland is increasing and this has had positive benefits for the pupils. According to this article, the introduction of Scots in one primary school has led to significant changes in the attitudes of some pupils. For example, boys who had little or no interest in reading really took to reading in Scots, and using the language they normally speak outside school has made them feel more engaged, comfortable and confident in school.

16 thoughts on “Jamaican and Scots

  1. In Scotland we have always read Scots poetry and literature in school.. however I don’t believe it should be used in the classroom and in general studies as it’s very un-useful in the world outside North East Scotland and in any further studies after Primary School.

  2. I don’t think the question is whether the language is useful or not – it’s a matter of the best way to educate children. Kids understand concepts better if they’re exposed to them in a language they fully understand. In the process, of course, the language gets preserved and probably broadens its scope, but that’s not the chief concern.

  3. When it comes to public policies and giving official “language” status, is there any objective criteria?

  4. I don’t know about Jamaican or Scots, but I wouldn’t imagine myself reading a “kuwaiti” text. I always consider colloquial tongues as “dialects” of Arabic. It just doesn’t feel right to me when I read such a text.

    Lately I discovered that wikipedia added a language to the list for some articles; The Egyptian Arabic, or simply “Egyptian”. When I started to read that article about the Hibiscus herb, it just didn’t feel right, and despite the fact that we deal with Egyptians here a lot and they are on TV shows most of the time, reading it, in some scientific article, was a bit cumbersome.

    Another notice concerning Egyptian “dialect” is that some people here buy a Disney movie or cartoon, on a DVD or a video tape, and the sticker says “dubbed-” or “translated into Arabic.” When we play it, it turns out to be Egyptian and not the Arabic that we read. Now imagine if a foreigner comes and sees this and thinks this IS the Arabic?

  5. TJ, what do you want, Disney characters to speak with case endings (baytun, al-baytu etc)? Wouldn’t that sound ridiculous?

    It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Disney to label the versions more accurately and maybe make more regional versions (they can afford it, after all).

    I would assume that if I were a 12 year old Egyptian that reading Harry Potter in my own language might be more fun than in school language that nobody I know actually speaks when they have a choice.

  6. And just to add to your information, this trend has been in the market lately. All cartoons we used to watch were in standard Arabic. Then I believe, I’m as an Arabic speaker, is the one to tell if it was ridiculous or not. I don’t need others opinions about translations into my own tongue.

    Thank you.

  7. TJ, I’m sorry if I offended you, it wasn’t my intention.

    But what Arabs (including Arabic teachers) have always told me is that nobody speaks standard Arabic (with case endings which I’m maybe putting too much emphasis on as a dividing line) on a daily basis with friends, family or co-workers. There are intemediary forms between pure colloquial and MSA but MSA doesn’t come naturally on a day to day basis.

    I also tend to look at language questions from the point of view of a detached linguist and often forget that not everyone can or wants to (or should) do that.

    Apologies again.

    Can you give a youtube link to cartoons in MSA? I’d be interested in what that sounds like.

  8. I tried to find some of the most popular cartoons we enjoyed in Arabic. Of course most of them are Japanese anime…

    Grandizer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9ThgK-eScU&feature=related

    Beginning song (dunno the Japanese name for it) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPYiIeyeIKc

    These two are just an example actually, there are lot of others. We might not speak Standard Arabic on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean we should drop it down or stop defending it as a unified language. Largely, the media and the literature and scientific books, use the Standard Arabic (in a scientific field sometimes the scientific terms are even coined in Arabic).

    By the way, my love for my own language appeared after I graduated from college. After I started looking into other languages, I then appreciated my own language. I realized that what made me hate to learn during school (and college) days was simply, the education and the personnel themselves. Otherwise, it is full of literature that amuses me personally.
    Your friends, if they were teachers of Arabic and did not defend it the way it should be, then I have to say, unfortunately, they lack the merit. I like to take Irish as an example of a language that get raised from the ashes. Many Irish do believe that there is no use in learning it, still, the EU admitted it as an official language in the council as far as I know, we just need to work on it instead of complaining really.

    About the Disney videos, well, it’s fine. If they want to make it in Egyptian (language or dialect or whatever it should be called). But the main point is, they shouldn’t put a sticker on those tapes saying “Arabic dub.” Because definitely, this is not Arabic at all, and simply all of that is misleading.

  9. The Arabic teachers I’ve known are mostly from linguistics (or have strong backgrouns in linguistics) which has its own way of looking at things.
    Within linguistics there is no need to ‘defend’ any particular language as all are perceived to be of equal merit.
    That is, for most linguists, Egyptian or Syrian or or some other kind of spoken Arabic is of equal value to MSA. I know that’s not what most Arabs who aren’t linguists think and it might seem alarming to them, but it’s a fundamental principle of modern linguistics.

    On the other hand, a philologist would be much more interested in MSA and not give much thought to colloquial spoken language.

    I definitely think that Disney videos should label the ‘Arabic’ versions differently (probably as “Egyptian Arabic”).

    Is this detective conan in MSA?


  10. @Michael: yep, that’s Conan. well, been some time since i followed the TV thoroughly, but this is one of the fewest cartoons that I’ve been following for some time (after passing 18). It is in standard Arabic as well and I remember it was introduced to the TV here after the year 2000, but can’t remember exactly when.

    There had been some dubs that are in standard Arabic (mainly done by Syrians) but sometimes we complain about changing the names of the characters into Arabic (like the football cartoon Captain Subasa, if I’m correct, been changed into Captain Majid). We deemed this act as useless and loosen the luster and the enjoyment, since only language must be dubbed or translated and not the names. For this, we mainly like the 80s period, and Detective Conan lately as well because the names were not changed.

    The title for this episode as it says in the video “the mysterious letters”.

  11. TJ – how is dialogue represented in Arabic writing (novels, newspapers etc.)? Is the dialect of the speakers used or only MSA?

  12. At the risk of offending some readers of this blog, I do not believe that Scots or the Jamaican “language” should be considered languages. I believe they are simply spoken dialects of English and according them any more status than that is disingenuous.

    Why, if I can understand a Jamaican man despite being from North Carolina, should only he be considered bilingual when he says some contortion such as “im ah wok oba deh suh” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_English)?

    To me this is just a poor patois of English that should be corrected, not supported to give a people the idea that they speak an entirely separate language when they truly speak a corrupted and to some extent crippling form of a standard language.

  13. William, have you had any linguistics classes?

    Before I pay attention to what you’re writing I’d like to know if you understand concepts like phonology, morphology and syntax (and how these are independent in Jamaican from mainstream Egnlish). You should also know something about the structure of creole languages, the sociolinguistics of creole speaking populations (where the official language is the lexifier of the creole) and especially the creole continuum.

    Otherwise you’re just some guy talking about things you don’t fully understand.

  14. stormboy: So far, although I don’t read much novels, but most books I’ve seen (and that would be like 99% of them) are in Standard Arabic, whether that be scientific novels and other genres. Newspapers are in simplified Standard Arabic, and sometimes you would see a title or so with a word from the dialect put between quotes “” to bring the attention or so, otherwise, all in all, is in standard Arabic.
    I would guess there are some novels represented in the dialect, and maybe the scripts for the TV shows or something, but so far I didn’t see those with my own eyes.

  15. This is interesting. I’m reading The Once and Future King, and one of the characters, Gawaine, speaks what seems (based on the article linked to here) to be Scots or a mixture of Scots and English. E.g., “Ye will do naething of the like!” and “Nane o’ that! Ye think I winna hit ye because ye are crooked, and ye take advantage. But I wull hit ye, mannie, if ye sneer.” The book mentions that out of pride he refuses to speak unaccented English. It calls his language Gaelic, though, not Scots, which as I understand based on my extensive 45-second Wikipedia research is not the same thing at all.

    I agree that if Scots and Jamaican are mutually intelligible with other English dialects (I haven’t heard enough of either to have an opinion), they should not be considered separate languages. On everything else I agree with Michael Farris, and appreciate all his comments on this page.

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