Last Updated 02 Apr 2020

The Caribbean Language Situation

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Topic: The Caribbean language situation. The Caribbean language situation is rather multifaceted thus there is a lot of controversy surrounding it. This topic in the course is an interesting one because it has enriched my understanding of what the language situation is in Jamaica and other neighbouring islands as well as its impact on education. According to Kathryn Shields (1989), two ways in which Standard English in Jamaica is defined are through the traditional metropolitan norms and the educated Jamaicans.

She identifies that the discrepancies found in defining Standard English in Jamaica often times go undocumented. However, this should not be as teachers would want to use it as they hope to monitor the factors to which their students are exposed by paralleling the discrepancy model with the acceptable model. As a result of this, I do agree with the idea of teachers using Creole to teach students different aspects of the target language. This is because many students in Jamaica enter the classroom speaking Creole or a mixture of Creole and English.

Often times this reflects the social background of the students as a result the teacher becomes a facilitator and accommodate these language varieties, thus, introducing Standard English which seems foreign to them may make them feel uncomfortable. Therefore, it would be wise to immerse them into the target language by taking them from the known to the unknown. Shields uses the educated Jamaicans as she identifies features that comprise the de facto model of English for the learner in Jamaica, subsequently presenting evidence of a new form of English in Jamaica.

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Additionally, she compares the pre-independence and post-independence eras of Jamaican language history. In the pre-independence era she regards the language as ‘mish mash’ and the language was referred to by the blanket term Jamaican English, which hides the difference between standard and non-standard as well as Creole, thus, making the description of the language vague. In the post-independence era the concept of Creole being inferior seeps over although there have been several revisions of attitudes to the language.

This is true as years after independence Creole speakers are still looked at and regarded as deep rural residences who have not been exposed to Standard English. In addition, many people including Creole speakers see Creole as a bad language and so should not be used in schools. It is seen as a waste of time to study or understand as it interferes with the learning of the target language. In some Jamaican schools especially city schools, teachers are not allowed to speak Creole and students are forced to speak the target language.

I am in disagreement with the negative attitude that still exists against Creole in this day and age as to me Creole has evolved into a unique language that identifies us as Caribbean people as well as our respective territories. Fortunately, not all Caribbean countries are still showing prejudice against Creole as in Haiti; French Creole has been legitimately accepted as an official language. Another salient aspect of the language situation in Jamaica and the Caribbean is the fact that children from varying backgrounds are expected to communicate in a language they cannot write or speak.

Therefore, a child from a Jamaican Creole speaking background is expected to write in Standard English and understand the language of educational books written in the target language. According to Shields, the Ministry of Education endorses the notion that adoptive speakers of the target language will have problems speaking the language but by reading, modelling and practice one will be able to write it. However they are not totally trying to eliminate the idea that one should be able to speak the target language as this is also an important factor in communicating globally.

This is evident in many schools where some students are able to write to an extent in the target language but whenever they are to speak the language they develop severe pronunciation and grammatical problems. The implication this has for myself and other teachers is to approach our class as a teacher of a ‘foreign’ language and use effective strategies and suitable models that will provide students with all the reading, writing and speaking practice necessary to become good users of the target language.

The Caribbean Language Situation essay

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