Crowdsourcing Jamaican Patois

Crowdsourcing Jamaican Patois

(Varun Baker, founder of

[digital media epistemologies – how might digital media be used to aid in the survival of traditional languages and cultures?]

Crowdsourcing Jamaican Patois

by Georgia Popplewell:

[below is just the introduction – the interview itself is best viewed on the globalvoicesonline website itself]

We may not think of Jamaica as a bilingual society, but local bloggers are assuring us that it is. English and Patois—or Patwa, as it’s often written—are widely spoken, but the Jamaican mother tongue—passed on primarily by oral tradition—gets much less respect. So do its speakers, regardless of the fact that Patois is the first—and in some cases, only—language of many Jamaicans.

But there is change afoot. The Jamaica Language Unit at the University of the West Indies is agitating for freedom from language discrimination to be included in the country’s Charter of Rights; the Patois Bible project, despite its naysayers, is forcing people to reconsider the way they view themselves and one another through language. And now, photographer and database developer Varun Baker (who is also the son of blogger Annie Paul) has started a website,, in an effort to use technology to help instil a sense of identity and pride in the indigenous language of Jamaica…


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