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How to Count in Jamaican

Updated July 20, 2017

With the dropped "h" and words with "th" often sounding like "tur," it may seem like Jamaicans speak a foreign language -- and this is true to some degree. However, the official language of the island is English, but many Jamaicans speak a form of "broken" or Creole English called patois. Counting in Jamaican is like counting in English, with a few key differences in pronunciation.

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  1. Say the word "three." Now repeat, leaving out the "h" so you get what sounds like t'ree. Jamaicans are notorious for not incorporating the "th" sound in the language. Therefore, the number three becomes t'ree.

  2. Pull your tongue back slightly into your mouth when counting 13, 30, 33 and so on. Instead of positioning the tongue between the teeth and pushing the "th" sound through the lips, Jamaicans tend to pull the tongue in, forming the sound "tur." Therefore, 13 sounds like "turteen;" 30 like "turty" and 33 like "turty t'ree."

  3. Open your mouth wide when saying the number 40. Instead of pursing your lips around the "for" in 40, open wider to spread out the sound to say "faa" or "faw" so the result sounds like "faaty" or "fawty."

  4. Drop the "h" from the number 100 to get one 'undred. The omission of the "h," whether in numbers or other words, is one of the features of Jamaican patois. Counting in the hundreds will be one 'undred (100); two 'undred (200); t'ree 'undred (300) and so on.

  5. Aim your tongue toward the roof of your mouth when counting in the thousands. Again, Jamaicans do not pronounce "th"' and they tend to drop the "d" at the end of some words. So when counting in the thousands you get what sounds like "taosan" or "towsan." Counting in the thousands will be, for example, t'ree towsan' an' turteen (3,013)); six towsan' eight 'undred an' fawty five (6,845); nine towsan' t'ree 'undred an' turty (9,330).

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About the Author

Grace Cameron began her writing career in 1981. She has written and edited for publications in Toronto and Vancouver, created and launched the international "JamaicanEats" magazine and ran the Lifestyle Desk of a major newspaper. Grace has taught media courses in Toronto, Vancouver and Jamaica and holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson School of Journalism, Toronto.

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