How to speak Rastafarian dialect (with pictures)

How to speak Rastafarian dialect (with pictures)
How to speak Rastafarian dialect (with pictures)

Rastafarian is a dialect spoken mainly by Jamaican Rastafarians. Rastafarian language is easier to understand than Jamaican patois because it is a set of puns with English and not an entirely different dialect like Jamaican patois is. The Rastafarian movement, which began in the 1930s in Jamaica, is rooted in positive beliefs such as unity, peace and one love. Rastafarian language is therefore a mirror of these positive beliefs.


Part 1 of 3: Understanding Basic Rastafarian Words

Speak Rastafarian English Step 1

Step 1. Understand the pronunciation of Rastafarian words

Rastafarian still exists as a living language, so its pronunciation is very important when trying to speak Rastafarian.

  • In Rastafarian, we do not pronounce the "h" of English words. Thus, "thanks" becomes "tanks", "three" becomes "tree", and so on.
  • Likewise, Rastafarians do not pronounce the "th" of English words. Thus, "the" becomes "di", "them" becomes "dem" and "that" becomes "dat".
Speak Rastafarian English Step 2

Step 2. Learn to use the phrase “I and I”

In Rastafarian, "I and I", pronounced "aïe en 'aïe", is an important expression. It refers to the unity of Jah (Rastafarian name of their God, the Ethiopian emperor Ras Tafari Haile Selassie I) in each person. “I and I” is an expression reinforcing the belief of the Rastafarian religion that Jah exists in all of us and that everyone exists as one and the same person, unified by Jah.

  • “I and I” can be used to replace “you and I” in a sentence. For example: “I and I going to de concert”. This means that you are going to a concert in the company of another person.
  • But this expression can also be used to refer to something that you do on your own or as an abbreviation of "me, myself and I". For example: “I and I going to de concert”. It means that you are going to a concert, all by yourself.
  • "I" is also used as a pun with certain words in English, such as "I man" for "inner man", denoting a Rastafarian. Rastas will say “Inity” rather than “unity”.
Speak Rastafarian English Step 3

Step 3. Learn to say "hello", "goodbye" and "thank you"

Most Rastafarians do not use certain words in the English language, as they would have satanic connotations. For example, the word "hello" is not used because it contains the word "hell" and "lo", similar to "low".

  • To say "hello", say: "Wa gwaan" or "Yes I".
  • To say "goodbye", say: "Me a go" or "Lickle bit".
  • To say "thank you", say: "Give thanks" or "Praise Jah".
Speak Rastafarian English Step 4

Step 4. Understand the words "rasta", "Jah Jah" and "dread"

Rastafarians will describe themselves or refer to their fellow human beings as "Rastafarians".

  • "Jah Jah" is used to honor Jah or to refer to Jah. For example: "Jah Jah protect mi fram mi enemy dem". In French, it means: “God, protect me from my enemies. "
  • "Dread" refers to the dreadlocks that Rastafarians wear as a spiritual practice. This term is also used to refer to something or someone who is Rastafarian or seen as something positive.
  • For example: "Dread, my". In French, it means: "Cool, mec". Or again: “Natty dread”. In French, it means: "T'es cool" or "T'es un rasta".
  • People who don't have dreadlocks are called “ball head”, a play on the expression “bald head”. For example, in his song "Crazy Baldheads", Bob Marley sings: "Wi guh chase dem crazy Ball head outta town". It translates to, "We're going to chase these dreadless crazies out of town." "
Speak Rastafarian English Step 5

Step 5. Learn common Rastafarian words like "Babylon", "politricks" and "irie"

These are keywords in Rastafarian because they refer to important concepts in Rastafarian culture.

  • “Babylon” is a Rastafarian word for the police, which is seen by Rastas as part of the corrupt government system. “Babylon,” which refers to the biblical rebellion of Men against God through the Tower of Babel, can also be used to describe any organization or person who oppresses the innocent.
  • For example: "Babylon deh cum, yuh hav nutten pan yuh? "In French, this translates to:" The police are coming, do you have something on you? "
  • “Politricks” is the Rastafarian term for “politics”. Rastafarians are generally quite skeptical of authority figures, including politicians. They are therefore seen as manipulators (tricksters in English) or as playing tricks.
  • “Irie” is one of the most important words in Rastafarian. It represents the positive aspect of the Rastafarian culture and their belief that "everything is irie" ("everything irie") or that "everything is fine".
  • For example, “Mi nuh have nutten fi complain bout, mi life irie”. In French, this translates to: "I have nothing to complain about, my life is going well." "
Speak Rastafarian English Step 6

Step 6. Understand the words for “man” and “woman”

Rastafarian culture is centered on the idea of ​​unity among all. Rastafarians therefore refer to people as their "Idren", a modification of the English word "children".

  • The Rastas call the boys "bwoy". A girl is called a "gal". If a rastafarian asks something about the children of another rastafarian, he will refer to the children as "pickney" or "gal pickney".
  • Rastafarians call adult males “bredren”. Adult women are called "sistren".
  • A Rastafarian man will refer to his wife or girlfriend as his "empress" or "queen". For example: "My cyaah cum tomorrow, mi a guh spen sum time wid mi empress". It translates to, "I can't come tomorrow, I'm going to hang out with my girlfriend." "
Speak Rastafarian English Step 7

Step 7. Understand the majority use of positive words rather than negative words

Rastafarians replace words that have negative meanings like “down” or “under” with “up” or “out”. For example…

  • Rastafarians will say "downpression" rather than saying "oppression". This is because "op" in Rastafarian corresponds to "up", so "downpression" indicates something that is holding someone down.
  • Rastafarians will say “overstanding” or “innerstanding” rather than “understanding”.
  • Rastas will say "outernational" rather than "international". This shows the feeling that Rastafarians have that the rest of the world is outside of their kingdom or world.
Speak Rastafarian English Step 8

Step 8. Learn Rastafarian Curses

There are insults with very particular sounds in Rastafarian. They generally refer to injuries or bodily features.

  • “Fiyah bun” is an expression that is used to denounce something strongly bad about someone or something.
  • For example: “Fiyah bun babylon kaaz dem eva deh taament people. This can be translated as: "I report the police because they annoy people all the time." "
  • "Bag o wire" is an expression designating a "traitor". It refers to a close friend of political leader Marcus Garvey who betrayed the latter by revealing the details of his escape plan.
  • For example: "Mi nuh truss deh bredren deh kaaz him a bag o wire". It can be translated as, "I don't trust this man because he's a traitor." "
  • “Bumba clot” or “Rass clot” are very violent swear words in Rastafarian. "Clot" is considered a swear word and can be connected with the verb "to clout" or "to hit or strike". It can also refer to a used tampon, which is where the pejorative side of the word comes from.

Part 2 of 3: Learn Basic Rastafarian Phrases

Speak Rastafarian English Step 9

Step 1. Practice saying “what's up”

In Rastafarian, you would greet a friend in the street by saying “Bredren, wa gwaan?"

The other rasta could respond with: "Bwai, ya done know seh mi deya gwaan easy". It means, “I just stay here, quiet. "

Speak Rastafarian English Step 10

Step 2. Practice asking someone where they are from

In Rastafarian, you would ask someone where they are from, “A weh ya baan?"

The other could respond with: “Mi baan inna Kingston”, which can be translated as: “I was born in Kingston. "

Speak Rastafarian English Step 11

Step 3. Learn to say “see you later”

A Rastafarian will end a usual conversation with …

  • "Yeh man, lickle more, seen? This can be translated as: "Okay, see you later."
  • The other could then respond with: "Lickle more". It means: "Yes, see you later".
  • A conversation in Rastafarian could turn out something like this …
  • "Bredrin, wa gwaan?" "
  • “Bwai, ya done know seh mi deya gwaan easy. "
  • “Yes I, a so it go still. Not 'n na gwaan, but we a keep di faith, nuh true? "
  • “True. How to pickney dem stay? "
  • “Bwai, dem aright. "
  • "Yeh man, lickle more, seen? "
  • "Lickle more".
  • The French translation of this would be:
  • " Hi what's new ? "
  • “Not much, I'm hanging out. "
  • “Yeah, I get it. Times are tough, but we have to keep the faith, don't we? "
  • " Yeah. How are your children? "
  • " They are fine. "
  • “Great, see you later. "
  • " See you later. "

Part 3 of 3: Understanding Rastafarian Culture

Speak Rastafarian English Step 12

Step 1. Understand the history of the language

The Rastafarian language developed within the Rastafarian movement, a religious and social movement based in Jamaica. Although the movement is very poorly organized, the Rastafarians are united by different very strong beliefs:

  • the belief in the beauty of the cultural heritage of black people in Africa;
  • the belief in the fact that Ras Tafari Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, is the messiah of the Bible. He is also called the "lion conqueror of the tribe of Judas". This is why the lion is seen as a powerful symbol by the Rastafarians;
  • the belief in the return to Ethiopia, also referred to as "Zion" by the Rastas, the true center of the redemption of the black people;
  • the belief in the possible fall of "Babylon", the corrupt world of the white man and a reversal of the hierarchical structure of the slave and the master.
Speak Rastafarian English Step 13

Step 2. Learn what are the main sources of knowledge about the Rastafarian movement

The Bible is the main sacred text of the Rastafarians. This explains why Bob Marley's words, for example, are full of biblical references to the Exodus and the Promised Land.

  • Rastafarians give great credit to studying the Bible and regularly quote and discuss passages from the scriptures. They believe the scriptures tell the true story of the black man. They also believe that Christian clerics have led people down the wrong path by giving incorrect interpretations of the Bible, especially by using it to justify slavery.
  • Rastafarians also refer to other official documents such as “the Promised Key” and “the Living Testament of rasta-for-I”. But most academics agree that no central doctrine exists among Rastafarians, as Rastas are against following organized systems or schools of thought. Instead, Rastafarians believe that each person should invest in reflecting on and interpreting their experiences and then forming their personal convictions about Rasta beliefs.
Speak Rastafarian English Step 14

Step 3. Learn the importance of "I-tal"

Rastafarians use the word “I-tal” to refer to food that is in its natural state. “I-tal” foods have not been affected by modern chemicals and contain no preservatives, spices and no salt.

  • Most Rastas follow the “I-tal” practice and some of them are vegetarians. Carnivorous rastas generally avoid eating pork, as pigs are seen as scavengers.
  • Alcohol, coffee, milk and drinks containing additives such as sodas are also considered not to be “I-tal”.
  • Often, rastas will say: "Man a rasta man, mi only nyam ital food". This can be translated as: “I am a Rastafarian, I only eat natural foods. "
Speak Rastafarian English Step 15

Step 4. Understand the role of cannabis in Rastafarian culture

We all know the widespread image of the rastafarian with dreadlocks smoking “weed,” as they call it. In addition to being felt "irie", the fact of smoking marijuana or "ganja" plays an important role in the life of Rastafarians. It is considered a sacred ritual in Rasta culture.

For the Rastas, “the sacred grass” is highly esteemed for its physical, psychological and therapeutic virtues

Speak Rastafarian English Step 16

Step 5. Familiarize yourself with the idea of ​​“everliving life”

The Rastas consider life to be an "everliving life" rather than an "everlasting life" ("life lasting forever" in French). They do not believe in the end of life, nor in a “last” part of life. Instead, Rastafarians believe in a life lived continuously, which can approach a vision of an immortal life.

This does not necessarily mean that Rastafarians believe they will live forever. But they think that a life "will last forever" is a negative view of really living your life fully


  • Listen to reggae artists like Bob Marley and the Wailers, Pato Banton, Patra, and Damian Marley to get used to Rastafarian pronunciation and culture. Pay close attention to the song lyrics and try to recognize some basic words or phrases.
  • There are also Jamaican language learning courses available online video. As Rastafarian is a spoken language, listening to Jamaicans speaking this language can help feel the rhythm and tone of Rastafarian words.


  • Some Jamaicans who will hear you speak Rastafarian will mistake you for an impostor, someone trying to pretend they are something they are not, especially if you are white. Try talking Rastafarian to Jamaicans at a Jamaican bar or cafe and see their reaction. Keep in mind that some people in these establishments may take it badly for you to try to speak Rastafarian and may even feel insulted by it. So be prepared to be bullied by the real Jamaicans, but it should be good kidding.
  • Alternatively, you can try your Rastafarian with a patient Jamaican friend.

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