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What Language Do Jamaicans Speak?
Is There More Than One?

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What Language Do Jamaicans Speak?What Language Do Jamaicans Speak?

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Jamaica’s motto “out of many one people” really does remain true in almost every aspect. This small island in the Caribbean is truly a beautiful mix of different races, cultures and even languages too. Yes, many languages are spoken in Jamaica by different people.


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English

Jamaica's official language is English which is used by the government, media and religious and educational institutions. British English has had the biggest impact on Jamaican English as the spelling and grammar primarily imitate the British form of the language - a direct result of Jamaica being under British rule for hundreds of years.


With that said, our exposure to American English has also played a role in Jamaican English just the same. I also must make mention of the numerous Irish intonation features.

The way you speak is often seen as a “giveaway” to the faction you belong to. Standard English is linked to success, social class, and wealth.

Patois/Creole

Jamaican Creole, Patwa or Patwah are other names for Jamaican Patois. Jamaican Patois is the most widely used language in the nation, despite English being its official tongue. The Creole dialect known as Jamaican Patois was created on the island as a result of the slave trade.

Slaves from Africa were brought to the island in the 1600s to work on plantations. The native tongues that the slaves brought with them combined with the English that their masters spoke. Following that, Jamaican Patois spread across the country and also incorporated words from Spanish, Irish, Scottish, and Aboriginal languages.

Jamaican Patois gained prominence as a marker of culture and heritage after the island nation attained independence.

Minority Languages Spoken in Jamaica

What language, if any, do Jamaicans speak besides English and Jamaican Patois? The Taino people, an Aboriginal group, speak Arawakan, the only indigenous language still in use in Jamaica.

Additionally, there is a small group of Kromanti speakers, who are primarily descended from the Moore Town Maroons, a group of emancipated slaves who lived independently in the mountains of eastern Jamaica.

Around 7,500 people use Jamaican Sign Language, which is generally regarded as a dialect of American Sign Language, and 40 people use Konchri Sain, also known as Jamaican Country Sign Language.

Languages Spoken because of Immigrants

Chinese

According to the most recent data collected, over 70 thousand Chinese people are living in Jamaica. Placing Jamaica as number 1 in the Caribbean for the highest rate of Chinese immigrants.

While there are, of course, many Chinese persons born and raised right here in Jamaica who speak Jamaican English and Patois, most immigrants still use Chinese languages, primarily Mandarin, Cantonese and Hakka.

Over the years, Jamaica has had an increase in political and economic dealings with China, and there has been a steady increase in visitors and immigrants from china. This has prompted more institutions, such as the University of the West Indies, to add mandarin courses to their curriculum. Some high schools even add it to the languages offered to their students.

Hindi and other Indian Dialects

Indians are another large group in Jamaica, currently, they make up approximately 3% of the island’s population. Indians like most minority groups in Jamaica speak both English and their national dialects.

Indians in Jamaica are known to popularly own haberdasheries, and furniture and appliance stores, and you can frequently observe them speaking in their dialect to each other in these spaces.

Spanish

There are not many Spanish-speaking people living on the island. Most of whom you can find working in the tourism or BPO sectors as bilingual agents. Many Jamaicans know Spanish, as it is typically introduced in the school system by at least the primary level.

Jamaica has also been seeing an increase in immigration from other foreign language-speaking countries such as Africa, especially Ghana and Nigeria. Languages such as French and Latin are barely spoken, if any at all, on the island but are a part of the curriculum for some secondary Preparatory schools and some universities.

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References & Sources For What Language Do Jamaicans Speak

  1. Babbel Magazine. 2022. What Language Is Spoken In Jamaica? [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 September 2022].
  2. Find Easy. 2022. Indian population in Jamaica 2022 | Find Easy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 September 2022].
  3. research gate. 2022. The Teaching of Chinese Language and Culture in Jamaica -A Case Study of the University of the West Indies, Mona and the Confucius Institute. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 September 2022].
  4. Sawe, B., Jamaica?, W., Continents, A., America, N., America, C., America, S., East, M., Countries, A., Maps, U., Maps, C., Maps, R., Maps, P., Maps, E., Facts, W., Know?, D., Facts, Q., Us, A. and Us, C., 2022. What Languages Are Spoken In Jamaica? [online] WorldAtlas. Available at: [Accessed 15 September 2022].

What Language Do Jamaicans Speak | Written: September 15th, 2022

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