Jamaica languages Patois

What are the two Jamaica languages?

Jamaica is a bilingual country where Jamaican English and Jamaican Patois are the most widely spoken Jamaica languages.

English is the only official language of Jamaica, but more Jamaicans speak Patois than English.

And for many locals, English is their second language as they often learn Patois first as children. They only learn English once at school.

Let’s explain how these two Jamaica languages are different:

1. Jamaican English

English is the official language of Jamaica and it is used in all administrative parts. Think education, work, government, etc. 

It is standard English, but from my experience traveling around Jamaica, it still has a significantly different sound compared to British or American English. But it is easily understood by other English speakers.

Also, the English used in Jamaica has largely British grammar as well as spelling, but it’s also been mixed with American English over the years due to the close proximity to Jamaica.

English is the only official language of the two Jamaican languages spoken in Jamaica.

Jamaica Languages - English vs Patois
Jamaica Languages – English vs Patois

2. Jamaican Patois (or Patwa)

Patois is an English-based creole language with some ties to the West African languages. Jamaican Patois is more dominant than the two Jamaica languages spoken by most Jamaicans. 

Sometimes it is also called Jamaican Creole. It is the main language of Jamaica from my experience travelling in Jamaica and eating a lot of Jamaica Jerk Chicken as you can imagine. Yum.

The majority of people speak just Patois to each other. You can understand bits and pieces of it based on English, but sometimes the expressions are completely different from English. Let me explain why.

The language was developed during the 17th century. It is a mixture of English and languages spoken by the slaves brought over here from West Africa during the Atlantic Slave Trade.

There are also links to Arawakan, the Aboriginal language of Jamaica, and a few others.

Jamaican Patois speakers build sentences like we do in English; however, the verb does not change with the subject. So you would say “I eat cake” and “She eat cake”. 

There are other examples where it seems Jamaican Patois simplifies the rules of English, especially with past tense. For example.

“That woman went to town” would sound like this in Patois: “The woman did go to town”.

Jamaica languages streets
Jamaica languages – Patois is the language spoken on the streets of Jamaica. Languages of Jamaica sound very unique.

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Arawakan – The Indigenous language of Jamaica

Jamaica’s only living indigenous language is Arawakan, which is spoken by the Aboriginal population known as the Taino people. 

The Tainos called the island “Xaymaca” in their language, meaning the “Land of Wood and Water” or the “Land of Springs”.

This summarises the two Jamaica languages spoken on this gorgeous island in the Caribbean. The most famous person from Jamaica, Bob Marley, is still played loudly everywhere in Jamaica.

Don’t miss the museum dedicated to him in Kingston, if you do visit Jamaica.

I hope this article helped you; if you have any remarks or suggestions regarding Jamaica’s languages, please let me know in the comments. If you’re interested in learning the Jamaican language or another new language, then check out Babbel language App.

Top Things to Do in Jamaica

Travel Tips for the Caribbean

You probably know all about the famous Jamaican Jerk Chicken dish, however, be sure to check out these 15 delicious foods to try in Jamaica while you’re there.

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We visited many Caribbean Island nations on our journey to visit every country. Our recap of the Caribbean islands and countries visited in 2019 may offer some good tips to help you plan your visit too.

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Along the way, many Caribbean island cuisines impressed us! Be sure to try these 10 popular foods in the Bahamas, and our top 10 delicious dishes in Haiti that you must try!

For future travels, don’t miss our top 6 Travel Hacks to save you money and our Ultimate Packing List for Travellers. And you may learn a few great tips after reading our best ever-travel tips after 20+ years of travel.

Find all of our best travel tips, advice, travel gear, and sites we recommend to travel the world on our Travel Resources Page.