Can I express my disappointment with members of the Jamaican Language lobby group?

I appreciate the scholarship and passion of people like Kadene Porter and Professor Devonish but I think they are going about it the wrong way. Being academics they appear to be taking the approach of convincing the doubters of the superiority of their arguments. I think this approach is bound to fail because the elites and those holding the balance of power are not going to be convinced by debate. They genuinely believe that Jamaican Creole should be killed off; no amount of debate or evidence is going to convince them.

While this debate is going on, many Jamaicans are increasingly using their language in text messages, emails, and online forums. Increasingly English is being relegated to the most formal of interactions between strangers such as speechmaking. I believe that rather than engaging in a futile debate proponents of Creole use should be using marketing tools and allow market forces to push the issue along. It cannot be beyond this talented group to devise attractive, engaging and interactive online tutorial and other media where people can log on and learn to read and write Creole. School children who are happily texting in Creole will see the structural difference with English. This will also have the added benefit of establishing a standardised writing system. As a member of the Diaspora, I know that there are many second and third generation Jamaicans who would love to have a place of reference to learn to write their mother tongue.

In some ways the current debate remind me of the media landscape when I was growing up. Then, the established radio station were posh ivory towers that put aside a little time here or there to play reggae music. Its was only after Irie FM burst onto the scene with its disruptive strategy that the others realised that they had to change because people were voting with their dials. I think we have reached that point in this language debate and the proponents just have to forge along and be disruptive. I would like to end by paraphrasing a line from the film: Field of Dreams; “if you build it they will come”.

Categories: Letters

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