I'm still learning English but I think that, at the moment, my level is becoming acceptable (I can keep a real conversation with a native speaker without problems). The point is that I've been listening to a song by Sean Paul (a Jamaican singer) and I really have problems understanding most of what he says.

This is the song, from 1:15 to 1:35.

The question, as you may know, is: Do you have any problems understanding what he say?

  • 1
    Just note that an inability to understand Sean Paul's songs may be more about Sean Paul's style than about his dialect per se. You might listen to him in this interview to hear how he actually speaks: youtube.com/…
    – user13141
    Dec 16 '11 at 17:35

Yes, even native English speakers can have trouble with strong accents that they're unfamiliar with.

In addition, Sean Paul here is speaking in a Jamaican dialect, so there are grammatical structures that would be unfamiliar, and even words that are not in a standard English dictionary.

  • Yes - Sean Paul tends to use lots of local dialect in his songs.
    – Rory Alsop
    Dec 16 '11 at 13:13

I do, but then I sometimes have difficulty in understanding people from other parts of the United Kingdom.

  • 1
    I thought my English was good until I moved to the UK... Dec 16 '11 at 15:42

Many Caribbean dialects can be difficult to understand for any English speaker simply because they tend to be creole languages. In Jamaica's case, it's a creole of an African dialect (from somewhere in Western Africa) and an English dialect (Irish English predominately).

Of course, Jamaica is unique as well in that it also has an entirely artificially created dialect, Iyaric, which is used by the Rastafarians and is often heard in reggae. May be what he's singing in in the video, but it can be hard to tell when they're talking fast.

There's also standard Jamaican English, which is pretty much like British English, but recently a lot of American English words (and grammar) have been working their way into it since they have closer ties to the US than to Britain now.


Yes. But then he would probably find my rather strong Northern Irish accent hard to understand too.


The male singer is utterly incomprehensible to an English speaker. I don't think even a Jamaican native would catch every word...it's more than just the accent, it's also partly the audio engineering on his voice. Contrast this with the female singer, whose lyrics are clear as a bell.

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