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Way In

Jiizas buk

We have some 'nyuuz' that will 'mek yu wel api'. This month sees the arrival of first official translation of the complete New Testament into Jamaican Patois - the culmination of a 20-year academic project.

Patois is the spoken at the kitchen table, in schoolyard, and across generations of the family. In this version, faithful to the original Greek texts, the words are intelligible - just ­- to traditional English speakers.

'Rispek fi yu an yu niem'? 'Hallowed be thy name'. 'Lisn op! Di uman we neehn sliip wid no man ago get biebi'? 'Behold a virgin shall be with child', obviously.
The project, which was initiated by the Bible Society, used translators from the University of the West Indies as well as theologians with expertise in Biblical texts.

Courtney Stewart, the general secretary of the Bible Society of the West Indies, says that having a translation of the Bible in Patois means the language has come of age: 'We have blazed a trail that no one in the 400-year history of our language has done. Patois has played a part in music, drama and entertainment, but we have taken the language and gone directly to the most serious and highly-regarded and most respected work, the Bible.'

Some Jamaicans object to the project because they say Patois is an obscure dialect that dilutes the sanctity of Scripture. 'To suggest that certain languages are not worthy of the word of God is arrogant and ignorant,' says Stewart.

'When God speaks my language I am validated - God has come down to me.'
The news has gone down heres too. Dr Bernard Lamb, president of the Queen's English Society, said: 'I think it sounds quite fun. I've got no objection to it at all if it helps spread the word of the Bible to people who cannot follow other versions.'

'Sacredness is not in how the Bible is written,' adds Karl Johnson, president of the Jamaica Council of Churches. 'It's what it stands for.'