Teach them dialect

A veteran educator has called for Bajan dialect to be taught in all schools in Barbados.

Furthermore, Juliana Boamah, a teacher of more than 30 years, said it should also be made a subject on the schools curriculum with an examination at the end of the course.

Veteran educator - Juliana Boamah.
Veteran educator – Juliana Boamah.

Boamah was at the time speaking to Barbados TODAY at the Gordon Walters Primary school in St Patricks, Christ Church, when she made the assertion. She explained that primary school aged children, even those under 18, were at the prime age where they could learn the difference between English and dialect.

“I remember when I used to live in Stanmore [Crescent in Black Rock], a lady was coming to PTA meetings at Ellersie School and it was cancelled so she was talking to me and she was speaking dialect, then when I opened my mouth she said ‘Oh sorry, you are not a Barbadian’ and she changed to English immediately. These children can’t do that, they speak dialect to every[one] . . . which means when they go outside they may find it difficult.

“You can only use dialect in Barbados and nowhere else, so it is very important that you start teaching dialect as a subject from primary to secondary . . . . I think it has come to a point where they should teach dialect as a subject in schools so that it would give the children a chance to know that dialect is not English and not mix the two and that will make these children speak proper English.

“I made a mistake once and told the children they can’t speak vernacular in one of my classes and they didn’t know what it was, they thought dialect was English. Teach the children so they would know it is not English and that would make that distinction very clear for them,” she said.

Since immigrating to Barbados in 1980, the Ghana native has taught at several schools including, the Garrison Secondary school (now Graydon Sealy Secondary), the Roebuck Secondary [formerly Louis Lynch], Ellerslie Secondary and Belleville Grammar school.

She told Barbados TODAY that in her native home, though they were a number of different languages associated with the various regions the country was divided they took dialect very seriously. Hence, the education system had taken their local vernaculars upward to O’Level.

“Dialect is very important but know when to speak it. Dialect is not a bad thing,” the retiree said frankly.

“We take our language very seriously because that is what makes us. When I came here I never spoke English to my children at home – never. It was always our language. My son at first wasn’t willing to learn it and I told him ‘Listen, right now if somebody comes to hurt me you are a little child. I can speak that language and you can run outside and get help for me. All they can say is shut up but I have already said what I wanted to say . . . .’ He said he never thought of it that way and he started learning it.

“At home I expect children to speak it to their parents but outside the home in schools, unless you are in the mist of all Barbadians you should be able to speak dialect freely. Some people feel that dialect is too common class but it is not, it is what makes you Barbadian, so you have got to hold onto it just as you hold on to rice and peas,” she added.

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