Embrace your Native Dialect

We have been gifted with a variety of tongues. To hear words in a foreign voice may sound eerie to some, but for many poets it can be quite beautiful. English may be the universal language, but we should not be afraid to throw in a taste of our native dialect when writing.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word DIALECT as:

a regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

Caribbean poetry may be hard to understand for many. When you are from the islands and already know how to speak in broken English, translating a poem from a Caribbean author is pretty easy. In school we are taught to write and speak “proper” English.  Broken English is basically the English language spoken “poorly” (as some would say), but it is also the pronunciation of words that can make it sound confusing. On the islands we use a lot of slang, improper tenses, and words from our neighboring cultures into our dialog.

Bennett.jpgSee if you can figure out what Jamaican poet, Louise Bennett is saying in this excerpt from “New Scholar.” 

Basically, the narrator is greeting a teacher and introducing her son. Her pronunciation of morning is “Mahnin”. When she says “ow is yuh”, she is using improper tense and is asking “how are you.” In the next stanza, she goes on to explain the circumstances when he was born (“bawn”). If you feel up to a challenge, read the entire poem and use a Jamaican slang glossary to see if you can figure out the rest.

The Japanese culture is one of the most fascinating. Everything has meaning – from the way you place your chopsticks on the table, the swords passed down with each generation, to the hand-made accessories worn. Their words are written in hiragana script, and are read up to down and right to left. The dialect is a beautiful one when spoken. The oldest collection of Japanese poetry found is The Man’yōshū.  Translated into English, one can’t help but fall in love with the endearing thoughts. If you can read and write Japanese, feel very fortunate that you can share it with the rest of the world.

Man'yoshu collage

Some writers take experimenting with dialect to the next level, like Irish author James Joyce with Finnegan’s Wake. Joyce pushed the boundaries with this one and it is one of the most difficult pieces of literature to understand. Take a peek of his complex language if you dare.

The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy. (Book I: 18-24)

-James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake.

CTU’s next anthology will highlight writers from all cultures. We are hoping many will share a few slang words and phrases, some lines that including translations from their native tongue, and maybe even a few symbols. If you are ready to share your unusual dialect, please feel free to submit to Shades of the Same Skin.

Get all the details by clicking on the links below:

Written by: Donna J. Sanders

Donna is a freelance writer and blogger in West Palm Beach, FL. She is the author of Ataraxia – a poetry collection about the struggles we face, the state of the world and how to see beauty in the simplest things, and Cardboard Signs – poems to bring awareness about homelessness, mental illness, self-esteem and the injustices many face.

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Photo Credit: © Donna J. Sanders

Categories: Creative Talents Unleashed

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2 replies


  1. Embrace your Native Dialect – TheRaven6825

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