What Languages Are Spoken In Jamaica?

Schoolchildren in Jamaica examining a camera. English is the main language used in imparting education in Jamaica.
Schoolchildren in Jamaica examining a camera. English is the main language used in imparting education in Jamaica.

Jamaica is regarded as a bilingual country where Jamaican English and Jamaican Patois are the most widely spoken languages. The languages in Jamaica reflect its history, from British colonization to the slave trade to African influence and a rise in nationalism. Languages in the country also attest to the island's rich ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity.

Official Languages Of Jamaica

Jamaican English

English is the official language in Jamaica and the language mostly used in formal contexts. The English spoken in Jamaica has been influenced mainly by British English. Having been colonized by the British, the British grammar and spelling is the English standard in the country. Exposure to American English also influenced the Jamaican English. The language subsequently prides in both British and American English elements alongside numerous aspects of Irish intonation. English in Jamaica is the language of commerce, education, government, media, and religion. The language is also associated with affluence, social class, and achievement.

Most Widely Spoken Language In Jamaica

Jamaican Patois

The Jamaican Patois is also referred to as Jamaican Creole or Patwa. Although English is the official language of the country, Jamaican Patois is the most widely spoken. Jamaican Patois is a form of English Creole developed on the island during the slave trade. By the 1600s, slaves from Africa were being shipped to the island to engage in plantations. The slaves brought with them their native languages which they integrated with English, the language spoken by their masters. Jamaican Patois subsequently developed throughout the nation and also borrowed from the Aboriginal, Irish, Scottish, and Spanish languages. After Jamaican had gained independence, Jamaican Patois rose to significance as a symbol of culture and heritage.

Jamaican Patois is not a written but rather a spoken language, which explains its dominance in informal settings. Characterized by a rhythmic and melodic quality, the language is primarily expressed in the country's most popular music genre of Reggae. The language has found its way all around the world through Jamaican immigrants. Jamaican Patois is the first language of many Jamaicans who later become exposed to English in school. The typical Jamaican thus has a grip on both of the languages. Jamaican Patois remains the medium through which folk traditions, oral myths, and customs are passed between generations.

Indigenous Languages Of Jamaica

Only one native language survives in Jamaica. A small population of the Aboriginal people referred to as the Taino people trace their ancestry to the first settlers of the island. The Tainos speak the Arawakan language, which also had an influence on the Jamaican Patois and even the English language.

Kromanti Language

Kromanti language is similar to the Akan language group of West Africa, especially the Asante language of Ghana. The language is distinct from Jamaican Patois and is a reserve for the Maroons of Moore Town situated in Eastern Jamaica. Maroons were runaway slaves who mainly fled to the mountainous region of the island and established independent communities. The language commands a declining number of speakers, however, and it is mostly used in ancestor-invoking ceremonies referred to as the Kromanti Play.

Immigrant Languages

Jamaica is home to scores of immigrants from various parts of the world such as Europe, Asia, and North America. The main immigrant languages in the nation are Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic. Most of these immigrants also speak English along with their individual languages.


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