English may be the language of first choice for business and leisure, but there is room for the dialects to be validated as a means of reflecting on the collective experiences of Caribbean people.

Minister of Community Development and Culture, Steve Blackett, made this observation on Monday night, while addressing the opening ceremony of the 18th Biennial Conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics, held under the theme: Caribbean Languages and Popular Culture.?? It was held at the Amaryllis Beach Resort, Hastings, Christ Church.

Notwithstanding the wide-ranging debate about the use of Standard English versus the dialect in the classroom and other spheres of business, he underscored the importance of being multi-lingual.

"Across the region, the debate about the use of language continues.?? Dialect, nation language, creole, Standard English – which should be the medium used by teachers and what should be standard in the classroom?

"Sometimes I think that we forget that dialect is allowed to be one of them.?? It is extremely important that the people of the Caribbean should all be able to communicate in more than one language," Mr. Blackett opined.

The Minister praised the late Caribbean linguist, Professor Richard Allsopp, for his life-time commitment to research into the region’s linguistic heritage and appealed for a continuation and a greater appreciation of the dialects of the region.?? "We should never allow them to die out.?? We should not allow them to suffer the same fate as the thousands of languages which have already died out.?? Languages contain within them the very souls of people’s cultures. Every time a language becomes extinct, a culture and a heritage are largely lost to the world," Mr. Blackett lamented.

Acknowledging that they were over two billion people worldwide proficient in the English Language, he said one cannot be successful unless they had mastered the accepted language.

"Can we deny our young people the ability to communicate in English??? If they are to succeed in today’s world, they must be able to speak Standard English.?? It is our responsibility to ensure that they are competent in English, as well as in their own dialects." jwilson@barbados.gov.bb

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