Lawd A Mercy: The Bible Gets Translated Into Patois

Words by Jesse Serwer, via BBC and Reid Van Renesse

For the first time, Jesus will be communicating to Jamaicans in their own language. According to an in-depth story posted on the BBC’s website Christmas Eve, translators at the Bible Society in Kingston are developing a Patois Bible, which they intend to publish in time for the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence in August. Meanwhile, congregants at Jamaica’s Spanish Town Tabernacle are already reading from a good book entitled Jiizas: di Buk We Luuk Rait bout Im.

As the BBC story notes, the project is a divisive one, welcomed by Jamaicans who want their mother tongue enshrined as the national language and decried by others who believe it will discourage Jamaican children from learning the King’s English, impeding their prospects in a global economy. “I think it will be massively, massively, helpful,” said Dr Nicole Scott, a linguist at the University of West Indies who has been working on the translation. “People will realise they can hear the word of God in their own language and understand it very well, this same language that has been stigmatised for so long.” Read the full story (with accompanying video shot at Spanish Town Tabernacle) here.

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