Jamaican Patwa

Rastafarians wear dreadlocks and frequently use Jamaican Patwa in everyday life
Rastafarians wear dreadlocks and frequently use Jamaican Patwa in everyday life

Jamaican Patwa is also known as Jamaican Patois and is a Creole based language with African origins. It is a language mainly spoken by Jamaicans, both those living in Jamaica and in the Jamaican diaspora, largely in the US and the UK. Patwa is a Creole based language with West African roots. Often confused with Rastafarian language, it developed during the slavery period when Jamaicans picked up on the English language that was spoken by their masters and adapted it to their own language.

Although predominantly spoken in Jamaica, it is also spoken in Costa Rica and Panama although not as widely as in Jamaica.


By and large Jamaican Patwa is a spoken language although it has been used to good effect by some Jamaican poets and writers such as Linton Kwesi Johnson, though for the general education system in Jamaica, English language is most widely used.

For many years Jamaican Patwa has been almost excluded from the non Jamaican population in the US and UK, but it caused a bit of a stir when it appeared on the Children's TV programme 'Rastamouse' in the UK, with parents claiming that it was a negative influence on their children and would teach them not to speak correctly, but in slang.

However, most Jamaicans were pleased that their children had TV programmes to watch that used the language that their parents and grandparents proudly spoke as part of their heritage.

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