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Bible Translated Into Jamaican Patois; Tells Story of ‘Jiizas’ the ‘Uoli Prafit’
October 15, 2012
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Irie, mon.

The complete New Testament is being published this month for the first time in Patois, commonly spoken in Jamaica and Jamaican communities around the world.

An online campaign was launched by the UK's Bible Society based on the success of a recent translation of Luke's Gospel.

The official launch of 'Di Jamiekan Nyuu Testament' at the Jamaican High Commission in London was the result of nearly two decades of work.

Reverend Courtney Stewart, General Secretary of the Bible Society of the West Indies, was proud to acknowledge the ties between Britain and Jamaica, which is part of the Commonwealth, and reinforced the strong ties between the countries. 'We thought it appropriate that in the 50th year since out political independence, this was a most appropriate place to do the launch and to show that we have come of age.'

patois-stewart-small.jpgRev. Stewart, who referred to the translation as like 'colonization in reverse,' has been touring the UK and making media appearances to promote not only the publication, but also the upcoming audio version that will be available on iTunes, as well as an app for mobile platforms.

The translation from the original Greek texts was a 'by-the-people, for-the-people' effort, overseen by linguists from the University of the West Indies along with religious groups in Jamaica.

There is, of course, some controversy. Critics say more education to learn formal British English is the answer, arguing that 'dumbing down' the Bible into Patois is, in effect, going to have an adverse effect.

Others see it as a remarkable and long-overdue way to spread God's word to a community that, according to the Bible Society, has felt excluded from reading the Bible in the language of their people.

Rev. Stewart sees bilingual education as the fix. When the time comes that 'our children will leave school fluent and literate in both Jamiekan and English, the crisis of illiteracy will be passed and over.'

Patois speakers around the world are, of course, thrilled with the news and the validation that comes from having the Holy Book translated into their native tongue, and the language of their culture and music. (Currently, the English King James Bible is used in most Jamaican churches.)

After a test run of Luke's Gospel at Kingston's Spanish Town Tabernacle, one women spoke about hearing the Bible in her people's tongue, calling it an exhilarating and moving experience. She told the BBC, 'It's almost as if you are seeing it. In the blink of an eye, you get the whole notion. It's as though you are watching a movie... It brings excitement to the word of God.'

It also marks a major step at phonetically preserving the language - its words, grammar, and tenses - since Jamaican Patois is an oral tradition passed from one generation to the next.

John Bigham of 'The Telegraph' got an advance look at the text, and recently wrote 'although faithful to the original Greek texts of the gospels, it is about as far from the style of traditional English translations as it is possible to imagine,' citing examples like the Hail Mary ('Blessed art thou among women' translates to 'Gad riili riili bles yu') and The Lord's Prayer ('Hallowed be Thy Name' reads as 'rispek fi yu an yu niem').

The Society states 'more than half the world's languages are still waiting for one book of the Bible,' which is often cited as the best selling book of all time.

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