ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

To Take A Holiday In Jamaica You Must Speak English!

Updated on March 16, 2012

Only Joking you don't have to speak English to take a vacation in Jamaica, but it would help. Nevertheless, if you decide to visit Jamaica there is one thing that you will soon experience; that Jamaicans can be very hard to understand despite the fact that they speak English.

In fact in Jamaican schools the Queen's English is taught. However, whilst many Jamaicans speak grammatically correct with a light lilt and rhythm to their spoken word, the English you will come across is the local slang called patois (patwa) a lively, fast paced broken English.

Jamaica is an English-speaking island with a rich heritage from a melting pot of foreign cultures blended together. The unique language is called Jamaican Creole by the linguists, an English-lexified creole language with West African influences spoken primarily in Jamaica.

To trace the origins of the language you have to look back to the days of slavery, when slaves were brought to the island from West and Central Africa to work on the sugar plantations. These captives learned to speak English from their British, Scottish or Irish slaves masters. The mixture of the native African tongue and English resulted in what is known as patois; a French term that does not have a precise linguistic definition.


A Lesson In Patois

There is no standard or official way of writing Jamaican patois. Just as English can have two words that sound the same but have different meanings, patois follows suit.

For example. The English word 'there' and their' sound the same but have different meanings, similarly the word for three in Jamaican can be spelled 'tree,' 'tri' or 'trii' to distinguish it from the noun tree. Also the word for there can be written as 'de', 'deh' or dere.'

You may be familiar with expressions like 'yeah man' or 'irie man' which are used when giving a high five, but here are a few more non essential patois phrases. Even if you feel a bit awkward speaking them and not sounding authentic they will help you understand what Jamaicans are saying when you're on holiday.


  • "Me nuh no"                                     I don't know
  • "Is weh you did go?"                        Where did you go?
  • "You waaan sup'n fe eat(nyam)      Do you want something to eat?
  • "what time dinna?"                          What time is dinner?
  • "Gimme a beer tanks"                    Can I have a beer? Thank you
  • "Go fall me dung a maaket"           Come to the market with me
  • "Is fareign yu cum fram?"               Are you from a foreign country?
  • "Ow me fine dis plaace"                 How do I find this place
  • "Ow much fe dat?"                         How much does that cost?
  • "Whappen"                                    What's happening or 'hello'
  • "tanks"                                           Thank you
  • "layta"                                            See you later or Bye
  • "Wha a gawn"                                What's going on
  • "iight?"                                           Are you ok


Funnily enough the most essential patois expression you must know is the phrase "soon come". As you will quickly realise, this term, practically used by everyone in Jamaica bears no reference to its meaning of swiftness, speed, or haste. In fact, like most things in Jamaica, even the word 'soon' has its own meaning.

You would think that when someone says to you "soon come" they will return in a short space of time. No, this is Jamaica we are talking about, so when you hear the term "soon come" you can expect the person saying it to return hours or even days later. A more accurate term would be "You see me wen you see me!"

In Jamaica things are very laid back so quickness, speed or haste does not feature in daily living. It's the best place to unwind, relax, and chill out.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • jagandelight profile image


      7 years ago from Florida


    • editorsupremo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London, England

      'Yes me dere mi did tink dis mus be Jamaican a respond to mi harticle!'

      Thank you for your comment.

    • jagandelight profile image


      7 years ago from Florida

      you made me laugh because I used those patwa a lot and it was funny reading it from some one else writing.

      Mi soon come - can be all day long. funny how you point that out because its true.

      If you can't tell already, I am a Jamaican.

    • editorsupremo profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London, England

      I love it too. I was recently in Jamaica holidaying and I was just enthralled at the way the locals spoke patois. There's so much emotion and expression in every syllable, similar to how the Italians gesticulate and emphasize their words. Absolutely fascinating how a medley of cultures created such a vibrant language.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, I love to 'hear' other languages like this, I have seen people on TV speaking it, there is another similar one called pidgeon English the local people call it that, I believe it comes from papua new guinea, fascinating thanks nell


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)