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Bahamianese 101 In The Schools?: Nassau Guardian
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Posted by:Sep 2nd 2003, 12:54:22 pm
Fig Tree News TeamSeptember 01, 2003 - 21:37
'Bahamianese' 101
Should Bahamian Dialect be taught in our educational system?

"Chile I ene gern dere taday." If you are not Bahamian you'll probably have no idea what the phrase means. Bahamian dialect, can perhaps be described as a most colourful, and vibrant way that Bahamians often use to communicate with each other.

Concise Oxford Dictionary, defines dialect as a "form of speech peculiar to a district, class or person. Subordinate variety of a language with distinguishable vocabulary, pronunciation, or idioms".

For us it's an indicative part of our culture, and even more importantly it is a link to our history and who we are as a people.

With this in mind, there are those who argue that while Standard English is acceptably taught, and stressed, in our public and private school systems in The Bahamas, implementing a curriculum that teaches courses in Bahamian dialect is equally vital to the growth of our society.

"It should be in the school because it's our dialect, it's our culture.

This is who they are, we cannot lose it, you cannot lose your dialect!," says Bahamian book author Terry Brown. Brown, recently released her book entitled Jus' Strollin' Down Mem'ry Lane In Crooked Island, which features a number of Bahamian words and phrases.

"Teachers in the classroom teach English, therefore I feel dialect should be taught in the classroom. I feel we as Bahamians know what is dialect and what is standard English," adds.

The ideology of the threat to Bahamians possibly losing their dialect, could be further argued by those who feel that often many Bahamians traveling abroad, conform to the dialect of other countries.

"My friend schooled in Britain for 4 years and came back home, speaking British," says Erica, a local administrator.

"That's nothing," reply's her co-worker laughing, "My aunt went to Miami for two days, and came back speaking American."

And while some linguists believe the distinction between languages and dialects is important and should be made, they also feel it cannot be accepted that any dialect should stand on the same footing as the standard language from which the dialect has evolved.

In fact, there are those persons who argue that if Bahamian dialect is implemented into the curriculum in Bahamian schools, students will learn a communication system that is severely restricted in it's usefulness in real life.

"No! I don't think it should be taught in our school system," says Kermit Fernander, a former school teacher for more than thirteen years.

" People here still have problems with Standard English. We have to think about the kids who cannot write a letter in Standard English to save their lives," he further comments. "And it's extremely important to be able to switch from Bahamian dialect to Standard English without difficulty," he stressed, noting a person's inability to do so can pose a communication problem for those outside the Bahamian culture, or those who wish to present themselves in a more formal setting.

Linguists agree that language betrays information about what social class we belong to, how educated we are and indeed what gender we are. It determines what ethnic group one is descended from.

"The problem here is that for Bahamians it seems as just a common low class way of speaking. In other countries in The Caribbean, it's seen as a heritage, something passed on," states Fernander.

In an interview, Director, Ministry of Education, Iris Pinder, gave her Ministry's position on the matter.

"I think we should respect our culture but we should insist on Standard English. There were times we could use it to get across more quickly, However I think because of where we are, we must insist on having Standard English," she stated.

In the end, there are those who insist that there is no threat of the Bahamian dialect becoming extinct, and therefore no need for it to be taught in our school system.

"There is no way in this creation that the average Bahamian could loose their Bahamian dialect, that's a part of you, that's a part of your heritage," says Kermit Fernander.

"Dialect projects a warm, soothing kind of intimacy, between our people, because we all understand each other," he adds.

What sweeten the billy goat mouth will bitter his behine.

What might appear exciting or stimulating at the moment could have a dangerous or serious consequence.

If you lie with dogs you'll catch fleas."

Be careful of the people with whom you associate.

Your hair look like crab in less water.

Hair that is not properly groomed.

Bo-hog know where to rub eh skin.

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Make up ya face like a squall of rain.

Face distorted by frowning or pouting.

Every day the bucket goes to the well, one day the bucket will fall out.

One may get away with doing wrong for a season, however beware, one day your luck will run out.

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Excerpts from Jus Strollin' Down Mem'ry Lane In Crooked Island. - By Terry L. Brown.

By Monique Forbes, The Nassau Guardian

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