How to Speak With a Jamaican Accent

By Bridgette Redman ; Updated September 15, 2017
Ziggy Marley speaking on stage during a performance.

Learning a Jamaican accent adds skills to your resume as an actor or a singer. The Jamaican accent adopts words and structure from Jamaican Patois, a language that combines words from English, Creole and several West African languages. The language does not differentiate between a subject and object and it does not have a subject-verb agreement. It is an accent that is commonly heard in reggae and Creole music and is ubiquitous across the isle of Jamaica.

Accent vs. Patois

Speaking with a Jamaican accent requires you to speak English the way a Jamaican would. You are still speaking English, but you are using some common Patois words such as mon, which refers to a person of any gender or age, dem, a plural or used in place of them or irie -- the Jamaican way of saying alright. As an official language, Patois is neither slang nor is it broken English. Users of the language speak very quickly and sometimes cut their words in half; develop this style to improve your Jamaican accent.

Grammatical Distinctions

Learn the basic differences in how Jamaicans speak. For starters, there is no subject-verb agreement in Patois. All verbs are spoken and written the same regardless of the subject. To form a plural add dem, such as pen dem for pens or by adding nuff at the start of a word, sometimes with a number. For pronouns, im works for both he and she, as there is no gender difference in the third person. The pronoun also doesn't change from subject to object. So while English would go from I to me, Jamaican employs mi at both spots in the sentence. In the language, standard pronouns are used to express possession. Substitute "a" for state of being verbs, such as "I am a father" translates to "mi a fada." Adopt these structures and rules for a successful Jamaican accent.

Vocabulary Acquisition

Employ common Jamaican words to make your accent come alive. Jamaicans commonly repeat words for emphasis, comparison and to increase number. Double negatives are acceptable, common and a standard part of Jamaican speech. Learn the many idioms that Jamaicans use and add them to your vocabulary. These include such things as adding eeh! to a sentence to say isn't that right? To add emphasis say yuh for you, and im for he or she or use breddah for brother, man or guy. Make liberal use of the word mon for any person at all.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Find online videos, music, television programs or a native speaker to practice your accent. Listen to how the words are pronounced and how sentences are expressed. Keep in mind that the accent is a vibrant one and tonal expression is as important as the vocabulary and grammar that you use. Adopt the style that Jamaicans use when speaking, this means developing your speed at the accent so that you sound natural and authentic. Listening to natives speak also helps you put the emphasis on the right words and acquire the melody and rhythm of the accent.

About the Author

As a professional writer since 1985, Bridgette Redman's career has included journalism, educational writing, book authoring and training. She's worked for daily newspapers, an educational publisher, websites, nonprofit associations and individuals. She is the author of two blogs, reviews live theater and has a weekly column in the "Lansing State Journal." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.