Learning Patois with Sean Paul

Sean Paul in concert at Moon Palace Jamaica

Presented by Palace Resorts

Jamaica’s Superstar Teaches Patois to Fans

Time to add another distinction to Sean Paul’s already long list of skills and accomplishments: Rapper, songwriter, producer, actor, Grammy-award winner, multi-Platinum record seller and now…


That’s right, Jamaica’s enduring musical icon who just celebrated among his most successful years in the business in 2016 – almost two decades after he first vaulted onto the international scene – took time from his busy schedule after a recent concert at Moon Palace Jamaica to flex his larynx in another way: teaching a group of his fans who were having difficulty understanding Jamaican Patois.

It cannot be written down, because there are so many changes year to year. So you just have to know and keep up with the vibe.

What is Patois?

Patois, or Patwah or Jamaican Creole, is an English-based creole language with West African influences spoken in Jamaica. It is the dialect spoken by Jamaicans to one another.

Even native English speakers visiting the island have difficulty understanding the dialect. That’s why Sean Paul explained the history of the language and enlightened a group of his most fervent fans to the meaning of some of its more popular phrases.

“Patois is a Jamaican indigenous language. It’s broken English and mixed with all kinds of stuff – African and different European dialects and slangs over 400 to 500 years,” Sean Paul explained.  “It’s just very unique to Jamaica, so it’s how we communicate.”


Who Speaks Patois?

He went on to explain why many Jamaicans switch back and forth among standard English and Patois, depending upon who they are speaking with.

“A lot of people say to me, ‘You don’t speak to me like how you sing.’ And I’m like ‘nah’ because when I was growing up the teachers and my mom they want you to speak proper English. Because that’s how they speak here and it’s supposed to be the mother language.'

“But everybody is like ‘Yo, we speak Patois.’ That’s how I sing to express myself and just let my own friends know what’s on my mind. It’s kind of unique that way.”

Keeping Up With Patois

The singer also explained the popularity the dialect has with Jamaica’s popular music genres. “That’s why dancehall music has been a very underground music, because many of us express ourselves in broad Patois. It is a very expressive language.”

Sean Paul went on to talk about the constantly evolving nature of dialect and why it is hard for those who don’t live on the island to keep up with Patois.

“It cannot be written down, because there are so many changes year to year. So you just have to know and keep up with the vibe. You might hear a word or a term this year that means something and when you come back 5 and 10 years later, it might not mean the same thing. Patois is our language and how we communicate.”