English in Cayman

| 26/10/2009

This website has brought true freedom of speech to Cayman, since anonymous posters can’t be held to account. Expats can get their feelings off their chests without fear of being deported; native Caymanians can get their feelings off their chests without falling foul of their expat bosses.

Private-sector workers can castigate Civil Servants for their inefficiencies; government workers can hotly deny them. Overseas readers of the website must be astonished to see so much raw resentment between factions in our small-town community – such fierce currents now visible for the first time in history.

Unfortunately, overseas readers must also be shocked to see so many mistakes of written English, especially by persons identifying themselves as Caymanian. I don’t mean the use of phonetic spelling and pretend-patwa words by some contributors as a way of excluding outsiders from the conversation. (We’ve all done that sort of thing in our lives: remember the teenage slang of our schooldays?) Rather, I mean the mis-spellings, the confused punctuation, the bad grammar and the wrong usages that betray a sub-standard education in this most prosperous of Caribbean islands.

The fall in standards is not unique to Cayman and Caymanians, of course, but it should worry us when it’s evident in public forums. Poor grammar is acceptable in the bosom of family and friends, but not in the presence of Cayman’s overseas observers. Like it or not, the world is controlled by people who have mastered their respective national languages. Like it or not, those controllers tend to be irritated by people whose skills in those languages are inferior. They forgive foreigners’ inferior skills, but regard fellow-nationals who display them as ignorant, stupid, or both. That’s unfair, but life is unfair.

For folk who work in manual jobs, ungrammatical speech and writing don’t matter much, at least up to a certain point on the promotions ladder. But for people in office jobs it matters a lot. They will very quickly bump their heads on a glass ceiling – however smart they are otherwise. If you can’t speak or write proper English, your chances of promotion are pretty slim – especially in the professional sector.

There are regular public reports of qualified Caymanians (academically qualified, that is) being turned down for jobs in the fields of law, accountancy, banking and investment. Well, the very first thing those Caymanians should ask themselves is, “Is my English up to scratch?” Sometimes it isn’t. Quite a few contributors to the CNS forums are grammatically challenged, on the evidence of their postings. They seem to be the chief complainers about glass ceilings. I wonder why.

The blame for low standards of English can be laid at many doors, but the responsibility lies with the state’s education strategy. Unfortunately, the strategy is usually biased in favour of children who are clever at passing exams – and that is the case in Cayman. The number of college graduates each year is reckoned to be more important than the level of literacy of everybody else.

Think of this. Some children are so far behind their peers when they enter kindergarten that they never catch up. Some teachers will franklysay that they can tell at age five who the high-school drop-outs and/or criminals will be. What a terrible state of affairs.

There have been many recommendations over the years on how to improve the situation, and some efforts to raise the general standards. There is a mentoring program. The Chamber of Commerce offers week-long courses in basic English. There are private coaches. But those efforts are a drop in the ocean. Maybe what MLAs should do is insist that all child-minders be literate, including domestic helpers in homes with children. Ah, but logic might require them to be given tenure as a reward, and that would never do.

For some years I chaired the Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee, and one of our aims was to minimise adult illiteracy. But we were told that the government Community College had the matter under control and would we please back off. Ohhh-kay. How has that worked out?

With its small population, Cayman can’t afford to ignore the talents of half its citizens, trapped below glass ceilings for want of a sensible education strategy. The complainers can’t afford to waste time bitching about competition from foreigners. What they should be doing instead is a) urging their MLAs to improve school standards of reading, writing and speech, and b) improving their own. What Cayman needs is not more schools or fancier schools or smaller classes, but a strategic program aimed at achieving a decent level of literacy.

I spent four of my formative years in a school that was a one-room shack without electricity. An inexperienced teacher taught twelve of us in four age-groups. Some older Caymanians can identify with that experience; and most of them probably read, write and speak better than their grandchildren. Those tiny schools’ strategy called for the teaching of proper grammar, proper spelling, proper punctuation, and proper word-meanings. How bad do things have to get before we return to that?

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  1. Caybonics says:

    Hooct awn fawnix werkt fer mee!

  2. Anonymous says:

    We can’t expect to have a high level of literacy in a country where direct taxes are non-existent.  In countries where pre-school is free and public schools are well-established this problem is much less prevalent.

  3. Wow! says:

    I’ve just now realised what a terrible place Cayman is.  I think I shouldn’t stay here.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is not terrible – just perhaps different from what one is used to, especially if one comes from a larger place.

      It certainly is not for everyone.

  4. whodatis says:

    Folks, the real issues here are percentages and perceptions.

    We in Cayman are a complete society – meaning all of the possible socio-economic levels, as exists in every other country (Britain included), are clearly visible. There appears to be a ridiculous onus placed upon us Caymanians to break away from the natural order of things – of any given society / country! We should ALL somehow become Ivy league graduates upon a glorious completion of our studies at Eton?!

    Please everyone – do some research into your own societies. Examine your own statistics in regards to tertiary educational levels and standards (yes, this level is relevant because we are inherently discussing such circles.) Furthermore, make an HONEST assessment of the true standing in the common, everyday customs / attitudes / personality / mindset / socio-economic plight of your own people.

    The expats that arrive here and work within the higher paid industries in the country are NOT the standard or "ordinary" person from their country.

    Hello!! We have Chinese, Brazilians, Indians, Russians, Zimbabweans, Nigerians and yes even Brits (see previous post for elaboration) in our midsts. At this point take your mind to what is the generally understood reality of the common AVERAGE person from any of the aforementioned nations … exactly!!

    In many instances we have the uppermost layer of the cream of the crop of those respective nations working in our county – if we were to have access or exposure to the AVERAGE individual from whence they came this entire debate would be very different.

    This point has to be driven home and too many of us are missing it!

    Obviously many in our expat community purposely miss the point and ignore the reality from which they come – but if we Caymanians continue to miss this crucial factor of this (and many other) debate(s) then we will continue trodding along with our flawed sense of inferiority which only serves to empower everyone other than ourselves.

    Yes, of course many of us Caymanians speak and express ourselves in colloquial ways – however, we do have our "nerds" and "geeks" that have gone and and will continue to go on and become main participants and in fact leaders within the relevant industries. This entire debate is built on sandy ground – so obviously so it is amazing that more of us fail to realize this fact.

    This, my friends, is the point I am trying to get across (especially to the person below who responded to a few of my earlier posts.)

    Thanks to my time living and travelling abroad I am able to see things from a much clearer point of view … I only wish more of our newly arrived members of our Caymanian community would properly align their perspective with the reality of the state of affairs in their home countries!

    However, all of that being said I will say that many Caymanians do make the mistake of believing that only a job or profession in the relevant fields are deemed worthy – and this is where we find the instances of many of the unqualified and inadequately trained individuals flopping through and / or trying to break down unrealistic barriers. At this point enters our history, rapid pace of modernisation, and limited job prospects.

    Millions of Scots, Trinidadians, and Nigerians have the opportunity make a career choice between an Accountant or an Oil Field Technician – we are not so blessed here in our beloved isle Cayman …

    When one considers our precarious predicament then it could possibly be argued that Gordon was onto something when he calls for higher standards – but the simple fact of the matter is…how realistic is that? What percentage of Essex residents become "Oxbridge" graduates? Not saying that Cayman  = Essex, but simply reminding us all that we simply cannot ignore the factors of population, industrial history, socio-economic realities, cultural / political history and attitudes and most crucial of all – the expectant percentage of any country in terms of academic / educational achievement.

    I was forced to rush this and I wish I could go on … but I ga’ run – hope it made sense – be good ery’body … and try behave unna self now – lata!!


    • Gordon Barlow says:

      Cayman’s aspiring tax-haven professionals are the "best and brightest" of a community of a mere 20,000 or less.  It’s unreasonable to expect them to compete for jobs with the best and brightest (well, more or less…) of nations of millions.  Do the math.  If say 3000 British tax-haven professionals are drawn from a population of 60 million, that calculates at one professional for each 20,000 people.  Say no more.

      Unfortunately, Caymanian politicians operate on the premise that our local schools are producing 100 or maybe 200 bloodline-Caymanians capable of filling the top spots in the financial sector.  Hence all the fierce rhetoric about glass ceilings and prejudiced employers, and all the bullying of expats by the Work Permit authorities.  They need to do the math, too.

      I believe it IS realistic to aim for higher standards of literacy, and it is essential to keep demanding them.  Higher standards might – with luck and diligence – produce maybe ten or twelve bloodline Caymanians coming through to compete on even terms with the most senior imported workers in the financial sector.  (They would also need to get some overseas exposure and work-experience, but that’s another can of worms.)

      • whodatis says:

        I completely agree with your first paragraph!

        You were spot on with your comments in regards to the ridiculous pipe-dreams of our politicians as well (a quick brush-over of the fine details and layout of the (super-grand) proposed school buildings is testament to that.)

        However, I am not about to discredit Caymanians’ claim of glass-ceilings and discrimination – as far as I can see that is a very valid argument as that issue affects practically all areas of the Caymanian workplace – not just the upper echelons of the Financial industry.

        Neither would I be willing to "guesstimate" a probable tally of suitable Caymanian candidates deemed worthy of said positions.

        In any event, and as I always say and strongly believe, this issue CANNOT be properly addressed from here in the Cayman Islands. We have to contend with; the "international boy’s club", "racial" prejudice and pre-judgements, global disregard of western "exotic" folk spear-heading such entities etc.

        Sadly, these are GLOBAL issues and quite frankly, even in 2009, persistent global attitudes would likely negatively affect our attractibility to the best of prospective personnel and therefore have a domino effect in regards to top-notch clientele and investment – if we happened to have a high percentage of Caymanian leaders in the industry. Within the context of the aforementioned it would result in a respone (most likely not openly expressed but there nonetheless) of "What’s going on over there?! Some sort of community program?!"

        Honestly, we are dealing with an English speaking Caribbean island-nation here – let us stop pretending that this is simply a matter of education, experience, and exposure.

        My overall point is that the situation simply it what it is, however, there are many external factors fuelling the current state of affairs that most are either blind to or refuse to accept.

        It is NOT just a "Cayman(ian)" thing.

  5. Anonymous says:

     I do not disagree with anything that Gordon has stated in this article.  I differ only in this one respect: in my humble view the greater damage is caused by the racism demonstrated rather than the sub-standard grammar.  Grammar can be fixed (with education as Gordon has suggested) – but can the stereotyping, prejudice, bigotry and racism be fixed?  

    • Anonymous says:

      "but can the stereotyping, prejudice, bigotry and racism be fixed?"

      Bear in mind that this is a two way street. There are some truly appalling posts on here by both Caymanians and expatriates.   

    • Gordon Barlow says:

      To Anonymous on Monday 22:56.

      Define "education".  Grammar can be fixed by schooling; education in the broader sense can fix the other things.  These days everybody has access to the vast library that is the World Wide Web.  When it is used as a library, any open-minded person can learn enough about foreign cultures to dispel ignorance and avoid stereotyping.

      Not everybody is open-minded, of course.  Prejudice is natural to us all.  Most people believe that their god, their nation and their ethnic group are superior to other gods, nations and groups. Overcoming those prejudices takes a lot of personal time and effort. 

      A few weeks ago I suggested government give every school-leaver $1000 and a backpack and send them each overseas for a year.  I was writing about Cayman and Caymanians, but every government in the world ought to do it.  It’s the cheapest way to broaden kids’ minds before the minds freeze up.

  6. Gordon Barlow says:

    For those readers who haven’t yet discovered it: the News item (on this website) headed "Minister back on track" posted on Thursday 10/29/2009 has several useful comments on the topic of schools and education.  Worth checking out.

  7. See Me Yah says:

    Som ov us kin talk English good…

    We’d rather speak Caymanian well…


    • cnsb says:

      While the rest of the people in this world are trying to raise their level of education by learning one or two foreign languages our young Caymanians are doing their best to dumb themselves down.  And no, there’s absolutely nothing special, unique, interesting, or intelligent about "som ov us kin" or "see me yah" etc. 

    • Jumpin Jack says:

      But the point is that Caymanian to the extent it is distinguishable from Jamaica (which would be barely at most) is merely a dialect used for oral communication.  This article is about the standard of written English in Cayman.

      • Anonymous says:

        1. You are clearly not either Caymanian or Jamaican. Caymanian dialect and accent is significant different from Jamaican dialect and accent as every Caymanian and Jamaican will attest. Caymanians do not generally speak what is described as patois, or according to Mr. Barlow, patwa.  

        2. You miss the writer’s point which is that some posters choose to right in their dialect and are not particularly concerned about the use of the ‘Queen’s English’ notwithstanding that they may know it well.    

  8. Anonymous says:

    To Dennis Smith – 10/29/09 – 19:46, you have a very good insight into what is very likely a part of the current problem. And to anyone who might want to challenge you as being an ‘expat’, I would like to say that you are more Caymanian than many born here because you and your family moved here when Cayman was really a ‘frontier’ of sorts – a true test that those who chose to stay really loved this place. You chose to stay and become one of us and you did more than your share to develop commerce and retail offerings which helped put us on the world’s duty free map. Thank you. You are more than qualified to speak

    To 10/30/09 – 19:23. Thank you for being bold enough to state your views on Jim Bodden’s role in damaging these islands. You are correct; if we look at most of our problems today, they have roots in the way his Governments ‘ran things’. Yet we made him a national hero???!!! No wonder we selected piracy as a national observance!!  Don’t forget that his cronies John Mc & Truman are still trying to influence today’s politics.  Hmmmm, come to think of it, maybe they are!  Hey, Dick Cheney, the evil svengali of the last Bush administration (no, not our Bush) was a holdover for the Nixon administration, so it’s not impossible that that kind of influence can survive politcal generations.

    Yes, Big Jim was the start of our downhill slide, when we started selling our future for the quick buck. Development??? I say sell out!! And we did it to ourselves! Thankfully there are many former expats such as those like Dennis who embraced these islands and their people but for those who did not embrace us for the same reason, they just did what anyone would do – get a little piece and stuck around to get more!! Can anyone blame them?

    Sir John Cumber should be the real national hero because his vision for the managed and paced development of these islands was well underway until that Development Plan was thrashed and ditched by Jimbo and Crew. And for the clowns who might challenge Sir John’s personal contribution to these islands, you might want to have a word with any of his family who also embraced Cayman and became us.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You people have too much time on your hands!!   Start writing a book or something!!!   ..  or making a Movie!!

    • Common Sense says:

       There are a lot of cultural divides in Cayman due to our insulated small size and awkward adaptation of overseas customs.  Some things are just done backwards and WRONG…..for instance, it was laughable last night to see how Caymanians "Trick or Treat" on Halloween.  I wish I had a film crew with me in Sung Harbour last night.  The ex-pat familes were all walking door to door trick or treating, saying "thank you" and happy Halloween!  The Cayman families drove around in huge SUVs door-to-door and let the kids out to hit a few houses while the parents stayed in their cars (most I noticed, listening to loud music).  The poor "walkers" had to dodge the TRAFFIC and it made it a stressful street crossing with toddlers.  I THINK I HAVE PINPOINTED THE OBESITY PROBLEM IN CAYMAN!  What the heck are the so-called role models doing when they cannot even park their car and get out to walk with their own children???  Come on, it was one of the most backwards and stupid things I have seen in my 14 years here.  Next year, I’m going to ask the cops and neighborhood groups to block off the head of the street and see what happens.  Do you think the lazy parents will be confused and go elsewhere or grumble and try to run the blockade?  Driving to trick or trick, what a ridiculous Cayman farce……

      • Anonymous says:

        Just for the record, I live in Snug Harbour and had lots of very polite Caymanian children at my door — on foot, and with their parents right behind them.  There were definitely some parents in cars (though I wouldn’t venture to guess their nationalities, since it was dark), but not nearly as many as in other years.    

        • Anonymous says:

          I stand corrected.  I just asked my husband, who took our little one out trick or treating, if he noticed as many cars out this year as in previous years.  It seemed to me from the house that there weren’t as many, but he says there were lots, most of them idling in the street.  It does make it difficult to see properly if you’re walking and there are headlightsglaring in your face out of the dark — mars the experience for those of us who do walk.

  10. Dennis Smith says:

    From the poster at 13:20.

    (It is simply that since the late 1970’s, our education system has been a political football and has been decimated, to the disadvantage of those who have passed through it.  Yes, sadly, it is a fact that most elders in our society can read and write better than most of our youth but that is indicative of the regression as a society that we have experienced in the last thirty years. Regression? Yes, quite clearly! As a simple example, I recall in the early 1970’s Bodden Town alone had three active farms – a dairy farm (Caribbean Farms) which delivered fresh milk every morning by Milk Maids in Mini Mokes; a poultry farm (Mijall Farms) which delivered fresh roasters to the stores every day and a packaging plant (orange juice, regular and flavoured milks). In West Bay there was a beef farm (Bothwell’s) and an egg farm (fresh eggs daily). For entertainment, in every district except East End and North Side were cinemas (GT & BT had 2 each), skating rink ( BT), etc.,etc.)

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane. Your brief recount of life in Cayman during the late 60’s and early 70’s brought an instant flood of indelible and happy memories. Perhaps the reason why so many Caymanians are feeling disenfranchised and overrun by Cayman’s modern society is that our progress was not homegrown.

    For the first time in my life I now wonder if all of our current problems stem from the introduction of our “tax Haven’ legislation in 1966 and our subsequent “progress”. Cayman was doing very well for itself before the UK decided to use it as a home for the “Bay Street Boys” fleeing the Bahamas.

    Conveniently the UK allowed us to be semi self-governing which removed them from having to manage our development and pay our expenses, but we were not piloting our own ship. Cayman was developed as a tax-free feeder colony, strategically used by the UK to funnel vast quantities of Euro Dollars into the “City of London”. Sadly, I now wish it had chosen so another Colony.

    It sole contribution to containing the Caymanian problem after the near riots and demonstrations of 1967 was the sponsorship of the destructive Caymanian Protection law that “guaranteed” Caymanian employment. It is a lot cheaper to pass a law than seriously addressing the education, skills and entrepreneurial development that Caymanians needed for economic self-advancement. It is this missing and sustainable beneficiation program that has left many Caymanians out of the economic loop and gendered all of the feelings of resentment that manifest themselves today in our society.

    Those two UK decisions changed everything, at first for the better, but as time went on we developed into a multi-level colonial society dominated by a UK developed secrecy banking industry at the top, supported by foreign laborer at the bottom and somewhere in the middle were the Caymanians with their “right” of employment.

    Some went overseas for education and migrated economically upwards, but many remained good solid Caymanians, culturally still rooted in the 1960s, doing quite well with the opportunities that Cayman provided. As the middle economy became broader employment needs expanded faster than the Caymanian working population, so skilled and educated professionals were brought in to make up for shortages. Caymanians benefited from skills transfer but lacked the higher levels of education and competitive training that their foreign co-worker had. Since business were mandated to hire Caymanians first, they filled their “quota’ before hiring the talent they really need from oversea. Compliance with the local protection laws and a lack of world-class education had effectively locked Caymanians in place.

    Mr. Barlow’s viewpoint and the subsequent posts make a lot of good points and I agree with him completely about the need for a superior education in our increasingly competitive world. I wonder though; is our academic deterioration and employment stagnation the fault of Caymanians or is it the result of a UK policy that deemed Caymanians not important enough to educate well?

    Dennis Smith – Farm Manager – Caribbean Farms – Bodden Town 1969 – Telford Miller and I Milked 120 cows at 5-am and 5-pm, 7 day a week before doing our real work: Veterinary, Artificial Insemination, Feeding, Pasturing, Milk Processing, Cartoning and sending pretty Milk Maids from West Bay to East End.

    • Anonymous says:

      Very interesting post, Mr Smith. I seem to remember a gentleman called Kneebone being part of that farm at one time.

      In my view, what "spoiled" Cayman was Jim Bodden exploding the real estate industry by bringing in the strata laws allowing condos to mushroom at a truly staggering pace. How many of us remember 7 mile beach in those days-hardly anything built there the suddenly-bam!- wall to wall condos and Government’s treasury booming. Concrete everywhere, the block factory becomes a gold mine, real estate people flood in from abroad many of whom are still here writing quarterly reports on what government should or should not do, beach propert goes from a ghastly $10,000 a front foot to a ridiculous $30,000 a front foot for beaches Caymanians could find no use for in the past, the ratio of Caymanian to foreigner races from 10 to 1 to 5 of them for every one of us.

      It wasn’t the British this time. It was us. And we made one of us our first National Hero.

      • Anonymous says:

        A corrupt dictatorial national hero?  La plus ca change. . . .

      • Dennis Smith says:

        Thank You, this is off topic but since I started it I will answer your question. After I left the dairy farm, they hired a manager from Ireland; perhaps he is the gentleman you recall. West Beach property was selling at the exorbitant price of $750 a front foot in 1968. Although Mr. Jim was Cayman’s most visible Real Estate promoter and perhaps its most influential: most prominent Caymanian families were in the game. Unfortunately when you sell property for a lot of money, you need to allow some development rights. I recall that the early development pressure was for more hotels and that a decision was made to restrict 7-mile beach to low-density condominiums instead. Like you I miss our virginity, with exception of 7-mile beach I can still recognize it everywhere else. Lets enjoy what we have.

  11. Common sense says:

    If "anon" had read my post more closely, and if s/he had spent any time in our public schools, s/he would realise that there are hardly any teachers left who are non-Caribbean in origin. I would say that 10% is a high estimate. Very few from countries outside the insular Caribbean. If s/he had spent any time in our schools observing teachers in action s/he would easily see the problems. To accuse me of being racist is ridiculous. I am merely reporting what I have observed. 

  12. Gordon Barlow says:

    The purpose of my essay was to provoke suggestions on how the general standards of public writing and speech in Cayman might be raised.  Perhaps I ought to have emphasized the general standard of reading.  In this respect, the poster at Wed 20:12 is spot on. 

    Nowhere in the essay did I jeer at the Caymanian dialect or accent.  Nowhere did I compare other communities’ jargons or accents with Cayman’s.  I didn’t say ALL glass ceilings relate to poor English usage.  (Isaid “some”, and some it probably is.)  Yet some readers claim to have found those things there.  Sigh.  Next time I will give more space to reading/comprehension. 

    Local schooling is to blame, as well as a perverted pride (among some) in the inability to speak or write The Queen’s English. 

    The poster who looked up “eloquent” in the dictionary and mis-spelt it in his posting apparently wasn’t taught Latin or Greek roots at school.  His school failed him.  The posters who objected to my spelling of “patwa” apparently never learned the importance of multiple dictionaries.  Their schools failed them.  (“Patois” is the usual spelling, but “patwa” is generally preferred by Jamaican scholars.) 

    Noting the prevalence of inadequate English-skills should not be offensive, in any place at any time.  Should we all pretend not to notice, instead?  Unless we do notice the inadequacies, and talk about them, they will never improve.  Those Caymanians who want to keep things the way they are, are doing their community a great deal of harm.  Well, it’s my community too, and I am not going to let you do that harm, if I can help it.

    • Anonymous says:

      All this emphasis on "The Queen’s English." Shall we just say proper english instead, as, at least in the business world, it’s heavily mixed with, if not dominated by, American English idioms and influence. Also, just for the sake of it, you have a completely unnecessary comma (the final one) in your last sentence, Gordon.

      As for reactions to the article, it’s the way you have written it and memories of your other articles that would lead commentors down the path of thought they’ve taken. Maybe you should consider a pseudonym for works that aren’t mean to be associated with your previous inflammatory words?

    • GB Fan Club Member #23 says:


      You could probably write an article that says 1+1=2 and some of these guys would accuse you of prejudice.  We appreciate your hard work at pointing out home truths as to life in Cayman.  As part of the Comment section on the last few Viewpoints you have written your critics were challenged to produce any quotations from your voluminous writings to justify their otherwise defamatory statements.  Not once could they come up with a quote.  You win! And we win when you win.

      Keep it up!

      GBFC Member #23

  13. Anonymous says:

    Wow … I’m sorry, I cannot sit back and witness this attack against our Caymanian youths – especially within the context of a veiled comparison to British youths.

    People, have you walked around the communities of London, Maidstone, Toxteth, Glasgow, Lancaster etc. lately?!

    Do you guys understand what the term "ASBO king" means (anti-social behaviour order)?! Do you fully comprehend the way in which millions of British youths are today declaring such titles with pride and glee?!

    Never in my life have I seen such disrepect shown to adults and such fear of kids by adults at the same time! In the UK kids are given free reign to do as they will between ages 12 – 18 (parents are not allowed / refuse to discipline them and the police cannot arrest them). arguably the period in one’s life where we tend to require the MOST guidance!

    I have personally witnessed, whilst travelingon a London to Manchester Virgin train, a group of drunk and "high" teenagers physically attack and injure a middle aged man who dared show "disrespect" for asking them to refrain from playing their music in such a loud manner. I could only shake my head with disbelief – for I know that day has NOT come in Cayman and I doubt it will anytime soon! Such incidents are NOT rare in the UK and all of you folks are fully aware of this! I see and hear of them ALL the time. "Broken Britain" – an alias penned by your own media corporations.

    Should I once again remind the readers of the UNICEF 2007 report on the Welfare of Children in the UK?!

    Your future is NOT looking very bright my friends – believe that.

    Although this thread is generally centered around education, when one considers the surrounding state of affairs I think it is safe to assume that not every British high school leaver is destined for "Oxbridge".

    Honestly, I am just tired of so many expats coming here and criticising every single element of Caymanian society as if from whence they came is some utopia!

    • whodatis says:

      Whoops, forgot to sign my previous post.

      However, I’m sure many of you knew the author – if I sound like a bit of a broken record blame yourselves.

      Take a look in the mirror folks – if you don’t I shall gladly hold it up for you.

      (Interesting how my comments which reveal nothing but truth are so greatly ignored on this forum.)

      I guess some of us simply get off on putting others down, albeit unfairly.



      • O'Really says:

        Posts are most often ignored becausealthough the author is convinced he or she is right, they are actually spouting rubbish. Let’s have a look at your post.

        You declare when referring to ASBO’s that "…millions of British youths are today declaring such titles with pride and glee?!"  Later  you state that "…kids are given free reign to do as they will between ages 12 – 18 (parents are not allowed / refuse to discipline them and the police cannot arrest them)."

        How do you reconcile these 2 statements? If millions of kids are subject to ASBO’s, what is your basis for suggesting they are not subject to discipline? Your position is illogical.

        Do you think that it is likely that no parents in the UK discipline their children, as you broadly suggest? There are almost 62 million people in the UK. You exaggerate your position to the point where you lose credibility.

        And just for info., readily available through Google, between 1998 ( when ASBO’s were introduced ) and 2007 ( the latest data available ) 14,972 ASBO’s were issued. Seems this is slightly short of your " millions of British kids." 

        I won’t seek to defend aspects of UK life and society that clearly could be improved. But I would ask you of what relevance they are to Cayman?  Your posts remind me of my children when they would do poorly at school. They would often try to placate me by telling me they had done better than so-and-so who was acknowledged to be borderline impaired. My response was always to ask then how they had compared to the top of the class. 

        If Caymanians want to truly compete, they need to measure themselves against the best out there. Casting around wildly for examples that are worse, like the one poster who pointed Jamaica’s literacy rate was 79%, helps no-one.

        When you hold up that mirror, take a close look. That is not a genius looking back. Better be a big mirror though, to get in all the head of someone who can declare without apparent embarrassment  " Whoops, forgot to sign my previous post. However, I’m sure many of you knew the author.." I for one had no clue.






        • Anonymous says:

          "Casting around wildly for examples that are worse, like the one poster who pointed Jamaica’s literacy rate was 79%, helps no-one."

          Why would you say that a comparison with our closest English-speaking neighbour where many Caymanians were educated and from which we gain many of our teachers is "casting around wildly"?

          Obviously, you took my quote out of context and distorted it to suggest that it reflected complacency. Clearly, it did not. However, we can do without the hyperbole which can bring discouragement even before we start.

          "I for one had no clue".

          Having read a number of your posts there are a few things you have no clue about.  It doesn’t stop you from posting though. Ironic that you should say "posts are most often ignored because although the author is convinced he or she is right, they are actually spouting rubbish".

          • O'Really says:

            Your post was written to counter a poster who claimed Cayman’s literacy rate was pitiful, at 90%, ranking Cayman 97th in the world literacy table according to the UN. Your position was that Cayman was not pitiful because Jamaica’s rate was 79%.

            My post was about Caymanians comparing themselves to the best around to assess where they stand, not looking for examples that are worse to justify the status quo. I don’t see how your reply in any way refutes my assertion. The statistic you chose, if given any credence, would help no-one deal with a real world issue of raising standards of spoken and written English for Caymanians, at least those who aspire to work in the financial service industry. 

            Despite your last comment, I see you couldn’t actually bring yourself to ignore my post. 

            • Anonymous says:

              There you go again. My post speaks for itself. I was plainly not looking for examples to JUSTIFY the status quo since my initial comment was that our literacy standards need improvement – a point which you have again chosen to ignore. You clearly have such a (misguided) sense of superiority that you automatically dismiss what the other person is saying without actually bothering to understand it. It is this insufferable attitude that repels many Caymanians.   

              I could say the same about you and the previous poster.    

              • O'Really says:

                "You clearly have such a (misguided) sense of superiority that you automatically dismiss what the other person is saying without actually bothering to understand it. " I love it, thanks for starting my day with a laugh. Coming from you, three words come to mind, pot, kettle and black.



                • Anonymous says:

                  Case in point! Because you cannot address my point with logic you dismiss it with haughty laughs. You really are full of yourself.  

                  • O'Really says:

                    " Because you cannot address my point with logic…" And I am full of myself? I strive to see logic in your posts, but it’s just not there. All I see is your almost instant propensity for personal insult for anyone who dares disagree with you.

                    My last post on this as once again an exchange with you becomes unproductive. Feel free to have that one last dig we both know you can’t resist. 


    • T says:

      "Honestly, I am just tired of so many expats coming here and criticising every single element of Caymanian society"

      yet you are happy to do the same thing with England apparently


      • Twyla Vargas says:

        COMMENMTS  12:17  I sincerely agree with you, and must add that anyone who is working and putting bread on their table from my Island should be a ashamed of bitting the hand that feeding you.  I call those persons ungrateful, and has no shame.  How can you come into my home, eat my food and then kick my dog.  Good gracious.  Have a little conscience or shut up.

        • Anonymous says:

          The Island is not feeding me, I am feeding the Island, by paying duties and employing staff I would not give a job to if they were not Caymanian.  My conscience is clear.

          • Anonymous says:

            These Islands are feeding you. That’s why you are here. As soon as they stop feeding you, you will be gone.

            • Anonymous says:

              Actually I have grown quite fat gorging on the island.  I can leave whenever I want, whether it feeds me or not.

            • Anonymous says:

               How utterly ignorant you are about these Islands.  With what do you think these Islands are feeding anyone?  Is there some magic in the sand?  Is there a natural spring or resource below the rock?  Do you think it is SMB or the diving that is feeding all these people?

              It is the financial industry – created by the first groups of "expats" who wrote or recommended the appropriate laws then convincined the money to come here.  That is what is feeding anyone on these Islands.  Without the financial industry the only feeding would be until the turtles at the 16M dollar turtle farm were all eaten (which wouldn’t last everyone for a week; what a bad return for such an investment).

              • Anonymous says:

                And of course Caymanians played no role in any of this.

                Many people  expats and Caymanians played a role in the development our financial industry. However, that does not include most expats here today who are simply the beneficiaries, i.e. they are being fed by these Islands.  

    • Young.KY.female says:

      I’m a young Caymanian and I do have to say most of my generation has terrible speech and writing skills and etiquette – it’s not only an issue Cayman faces but it has to be said.  While working in the Human Resource department of a large firm on-island I am appalled at what some of my fellow Caymanians submit as resumes.  A few try their best and even copy templates off the internet but forget to change the standard address and telephone number so they can’t be contacted assuming their telephone numbers aren’t (012) 345 6789.  It’s no wonder even capable Caymanians aren’t getting jobs.  To be qualified in such a cosmopolitan environment such as Cayman’s, you must have worldly qualities.  And I’m not talking about American vs.("the Queen’s") English – stick to one or the other; neither is right nor wrong and both are widely accepted (even though in some situations it’s appropriate to be sensitive of thebackground of the person you are communicating with).  To speak with a dialect, to use slangs and to write with no regard to spelling or grammar is fine among peers and in informal conversations (even in most cases on these blog sites), but when your corporate social and networking abilities (at least) are compromised because you don’t know when to "turn off" your slack communication skills, it’s a problem.

      • Curious George says:

        A very well written comment!  I hope that Caymanians such as yourself continue to learn and lead this country in the right direction.  Don’t let anyone discourage you from leading, and don’t be afraid to tell the truth as you did in this comment.  It is always refreshing to see an articulate and learned Caymanian speaking such as yourself!

  14. Anonymous says:

    In teaching within the education system here, I can tell you that there are far more illiterate students than literate ones.  I am talking about BASIC reading and writing skills.  It is in true Caymanian fashion that this ishidden underneath the rug, like everything else on this tiny island (sex offenders for example).  However, you are on the world stage now, and companies are taking notice.  I will assure you that if children do not learn proper English they will be disadvantaged in this world, wherever they are located physically.

    • Anonymous says:

      I ask you then how it is possible that these children graduate from school. It is a neverending cycle. Teachers are demotivated and often do not want to deal with the same child for two years in the row, so they rather move them on to the next grade (never mind if they have met the set goals or not). Some parents don’t care or don’t know any better themselves. Some parents do care, but they have a very hard time figuring out how they can provide the extra support at home. Communication between schools and parents is as bad as it can get. This is a complex problem, but I would suggest everyone is figuring out (for themselves) how to address this problem within their own family or circle of friends, rather than putting down an entire population, especially when it is a well known fact illiteracy is a problem worldwide. Stop comparing apples with oranges. You can’t compare the entire Cayman population with only the higher educated individuals from other countries. I am sure if you compare the entire Cayman population to the entire US population, you would see that the US is struggling with illiteracy as well.

      • Anonymous says:

        You are absolutely correct, and in my post I certainly wasn’t comparing Cayman with any other society, but education in general (especially math and literacy) is the bedrock to a successful society.

        It is also correct that parents certainly aren’t doing their parts either.  They let their undisciplined children go to school, and then expect the school teachers to perform miracles.  

        I am concerned for the entire world to be honest, as I see the lack of parenting starting to affect the entire world.  In the same vein, I am tired of children being raised without both parents.  While I realize the reality is that not every child can have two parents, there are many males and females that are CHOOSING to have babies out of wedlock.  Now, I don’t think that two people necessarily need to be married to be great parents, but there MUST be two parents involved heavily in children’s lives. 

        The first step I believe is for Cayman to do away with graduation from high school based solely on attendance.

        • Anonymous1 says:

          Even if parents wanted to keep their children back they can’t because they are not allowed to be kept back in high school.  At least that is my understanding.  I don’t understand the school system here at all.  I think that if a child can’t take an External Exam (CXC or whatever they are called), they shouldn’t be able to graduate.

      • Anonymous says:

        In response to post 09:12 as regards the promotion of students who are underachieving, my experience has been as follows:

        When a parent is informed that his/her child has to be retained, the parent goes to the Ministry of Education/Education Department, then the principal receives a call stating that no child is to be kept back,regardless of his/her readiness for the next grade.

        Research has shown that retaining a child after Keystage 1 does not generally benefit the child. It is advocated that children with learning problems should be identified and  tracked in the early grades and remediation done at that level.

        I once had a student who had been through the  primary system from Yr.1 to Yr.5 and no one had realized that he had a major reading problem. Here, I’d definitely would have to blame my fellow teachers. However, one teacher told me that that particular student had come through the grades with many students who had had learning and behavioural problems and most of the time had been spent in dealing with the behavioural problems. This particular student’s records also showed that retention had been mentioned in the earlier grades, but the student had cried at the suggestion and the parentssaid no.

        As regards,the use of proper English, many other Caribbean countries have wrestled with promoting proper English over the local venacular. The solution  – as with everything else, there’s a time and place for using one or the other.

        I firmly belive that if you have had tertiary education, you should be able to master the skill of subject/verb agreement.

      • notdaceo says:

        It’s not the teachers, it’s the parents and the administration.  Any time a teacher wants to retain a student, some parents shout to the high heavens about it.  In the case when parents agree to the student being retained, the big whigs at the Department rarely grant the request.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It would appear, Mr. Barlow, that we have a reading/comprehension and writing problem, as it is clear from the posts that your point was decidedly missed.

    As a Caymanian I must agree.  Unfair as it is we are being judged for even the most meaningless of tasks, such as posting a comment in an online forum.  Let us be honest: we all judge the posts based on how well or poorly the author has stated his or her case.  At times, when the content is so appalling and/or asinine, passionate responses put the proverbial cherry on top of their arguments by pointing out the author’s ineptitude and lack of education via their massacre of the English language.

    Language matters.  Grammar matters. Education matters.

    But as another reader pointed out, how is the example to be set, that these are our "values", when we clearly lack a culture of education?  When those who are in power, or running for office, show clear and utter disdain for questions that are asked about their qualifications, of which education is a part? 

    When a native English speaker cannot differentiate between "their" and "there" or "your" and "you’re", the glass ceiling is in fact concrete.  Unless of course, they run for public office.

  16. Dick Shaughneary says:

    To be fair to everyone the quality of writing on this topic has been far superior to the average chain of posts on CNS.  Let us all rejoice and have a short moment of mutual smugness and appreciation. 

    • Re Joice; ex parte Smug says:

      U bee dooing it agin, tokin lik demkarkin boostairds dide befor!  pestin me ohf.  Oh whele…

  17. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think that a blog such as this is where you can judge whether people are really illiterate or not, but I agree it is an issue (albeit not only in Cayman but rather worldwide). That said, there is a way to send a message and drive home a point, and doing it the way Gordon Barlow has done is not helpful but rather destructive. I wonder then why people are utterly surprised when Caymanians become defensive and feel disgust towards the colonial superior attitude displayed by som many.

    At the end, I would suggest that Gordon Barlow spend some time to hammer this message home to the elected members and especially the LOGB as I often have to crinch when I listen to them speak. I think they are doing much more damage on the global platform than the average joe blow does on this blog when it comes to upholding proper Queen’s English. Who can blame when children don’t strive for anything anymore when the recent election reminded everyone that no education is required to be serving as a representative of an entire country.

    • Anonymous says:

      There are definitely places for the Queen’s English (dreadful expression) but I don’t think Mac or any other Caymanian should be penalised for his lack of it when "being political". Letters to Captain Underpants-yes- Queen’s (ahem) English. In the LA and on fire attacking the Opposition/Government or making an impassioned plea to the Electorate, no, not necessarily.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone gone online to any of the American and/or Canadian websites that allow comments and read what is there?? Don’t tell me this problem is only found in Cayman! It is an overall decline in education the world over – particularly in English grammar.

    To the poster that looked up the word online and still got it wrong next time please try going to a recognised website and look up the word in both the American and English dictionaries.


  19. whodatis says:

    "If it ain’t Scottish, it’s f’ing crap!"


    (Imagining the rolled "r" as you say it!)

    F*in’ cr-r-r-r-r-a-p!

    Love it!

    Hey – we really all need to take a chill pill on the idle back and forth  bickering everyone.

    I’m often accused of "missing the point" or being "prejudiced" – however, I think it is quite a fair statement to say that 99.9% of the time my "going-ins" of the UK are normally in defence of Cayman or an attempt to address a glaring hypocrisy.

    Folks, the UK is far from a perfect society – I’ve lived there, many Caymanians have not – or those that have have only done so in a short term (student) capacity. The UK has however mastered the art of  exporting (media, empire, institutions) only the positive elements of its society to the wider world and many of you enjoy riding that imaginary wave of superiority. The stats really paint another picture guys – e.g. just tune in to the "Trisha" or "Jeremy Kyle" show and there one shall discover all the hidden gems of British society (and no they do not represent a minute minority!)

    The average person of ANY nation is just that  a-v-e-r-a-g-e, be it Cayman, UK, USA or China or India.

    So … can we please get real in the future?


  20. Johnny Cake wid a cup of coffey(e) says:

    Yeah we spell just as good as former Vice President Dan Qualye! 

    This man have obviously not visited one of the thousands of other public forums on the net.


    • NSS says:

      Your post might have more impact if you managed to spell the former VP’s name correctly…Quayle.

    • Poly Glot says:

      Apart from the inability to spell Quayle, I would be more concerned at employing someone who is unable to decline English verbs, for example someone who writes "this man have".

      • Ex Pat says:

        To: Poly Glot @ 10:26 and to Mr Barlow

        Just giving my (English) two cents.

        A situation like this would really have to be taken in context:

        If it was a professional letter or document prepared in the course ofwork then fair enough, but if you are judging someone purely on the basis of their postings in here, on the net generally, or personal writings (not connected with the workplace), then I would say that this was a grossly harsh and unfair judgment.  This is the Caribbean and just as with other parts of the world, if you are not addressing a client or writing in a formal capacity, you have every right to revert to your own dialect or patois and/or to pronounce words phonetically in your personal (non-work related) communications.

        Whilst I am the first to agree that education and literacy at schools should be improved, and students should be better prepared for entering into the world of work, for the most part, certainly here on CNS, the arrogant and superior attitudes some of our ex-pats display, together with the condescending nature of their posts certainly deserve every bit of (inevitable) vitriol they get. 

  21. whodatis says:

    Gordon Barlow … are you SERIOUS?!


    Gordon, it is because of sentiments, attitudes and literal offerings like yours above that I often get a bitter taste in my mouth when it comes to individuals (nationals / expats) such as yourself.

    I have lived in and travelled all over the UK – are you, or any other Brit for that matter, hereby attempting to deride the literary / language skills of the nation of Cayman in comparison to the UK!?


    Excuse me as I pull myself together as I roll with laughter!

    Have you ever been to the East End of London mate…"kno’ wha’ a mean?!" / "innit" / "yes you were" – "no, I weren’t – ah’ swear to ‘ya … yeah … izzit?!"

    How about Toxteth, Liverpool – (I can’t even provide examples in this case for it is so NOT the Queen’s English!)

    Should we touch upon inner city Glasgow, Gordon?

    Boy, lookya – try so stop talkin’ foolishness on dis intanet’ – u hear me bredrin?!

    I won’t even waste much of my precious time on your warped sense of global reality.

    To my fellow Caymanians – don’t pay dis fool no mind ya hear!? He jus’ anodda one a dem way like preten’ like all is betta whey dey come from (or from whence their heart obviously belongs!)

    From levels of education, to crime, to TEENAGE PREGNANCY, to SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES, to BINGE DRINKING WOMEN, to OVER-CROWDED PRISONS – no Brit can’t tell me NUTTIN’!!!

    The gig is up folks … "on yer bike!"

    (Looking forward to colourful responses :o)



    • Jock Smith says:

      Whodatis, I am offended. We don’t speak , write, eat or breathe English anywhere in Scotland, let alone Glasgow, nor would we want to try! By the way, – If it ain’t Scottish, it’s f’ing crap!

      • O'Really says:

         As an Englishman I am always happy to learn that there is absolutely nothing English about anything Scottish.

        • Jock Smith says:

          Except our oil of course. You still want that don’t you?


          • Anonymous says:

            And your "delicious" cuisine!

          • O'Really says:

            Given what I wrote, your comment makes no sense, unless of course it was some form of word association, like association, football, world cup, South Africa, Scotland not there, again. Now I’ve tried it I see why it appealed to you.

            • Jock Smith says:

              Fair point regarding my post, it did achieive what I intended it to though.

              Difference being that the Scottish don’t pretend to be major players on the world football stage. How long ago was 1966 anyway? Let it go old pal.

              • O'Really says:

                1966 was a long time ago, but not quite as long as never.   

                • Tam O'Shanter says:

                  England – the only country to win a World Cup Final scoring the same number of goals as the other side.  Winning as hosts does not count as a proper win anyway.

                  • O'Really says:

                    If your last point is correct , it’s going to come as a bitter disappointment to Uruguay, Italy, Germany, Argentina and France. Not a bad list of losers for England to be on. Don’t see Scotland there though. Wonder why that is?. Maybe next year. Oh, sorry, you’re not going are you.

                    • Jumpin Jock says:

                      Not a good point there O’Really, since Uruguay, Argentina, Italy and Germany have all won World Cups properly i.e. on foreign soil.  France are quite rightly lumped in with England because, like England, while they are one of Europe’s better teams, no-one considers them one of the world’s football powerhouses. 

                    • O'Really says:

                       Whilst you are right about 4 of the countries being multiple winners, the point you have missed is that there have only been 18 world cups. For 6 of them to be invalid because the home team won them cannot be correct.  No disputing playing at home is an advantage, but are fully one third of football’s world champions illegitimate? 

                      If you can find a post of mine where I claimed England were a world football powerhouse, as opposed to simply stating by inference that they were once legitimate world champions, I’ll buy you a pint!

                    • Jim Baxter Drank My Hamster says:

                      Maybe we can all agree that England were second class world champions – my mammy told me never to accept a pint from an Englishman!

                • Anonymous says:

                  I think to be a true World Cup winner, a team must triumph in a tournament hosted by someone else. If you want to see a (relatively) recent effect of home-country advantage just watch clips of S. Korea playing in 2002. So, until England raises the Cup outside the British Isles, they aren’t real champions in any sense.

    • Anonymous says:

       I must say that you did pose a serious question for Mr. Barlow to contemplate, I just want to add a few more.

      I was so shocked in the late 90’s when I went to college in the UK to discover that there were poor, highly illiterate people there, but unlike Mr. Barlow I did not spend my time putting them down, I waded in full speed, and here I am all these years later and I still go for a "fry up" every Sunday morning, and baked beans are now a normal breakfast food for me.

      I am honestly so tired of ALL the nasty fighting back and forth, all the different angles, and ALL the bad mouthing WE(yes everyone who has had something bad to say here) are doing about each other, it is simple folks, the WHOLE world is watching, many may be feeling our pain, but trust me many are rubbing their hands with glee, and that is what we need to stop, or there will not be a Cayman to fight over.

      Damn I miss the days when I did not have to think before I walked into a bar to have a drink.

      Oh yeah, in case anyone wants to know, I am Caymanian, and yes both my parents were born here, and I have lived here ALL my life.


      • Knowledge is Power says:

        I agree with the general sentiments of the poster of "10/27/2009 – 19:37". I would also add that generalisations and lack of regular interaction at the personal level are often the facilitators of prejudice. 

        Growing up in the Cayman Islands, I did not put people in categories by what we have come to call "race". They were simply other people who were all unique in their own way.  By instinct I extended that approach to people from other countries — they are just persons like you and me with their own blend of virtue and vice.  I am not so naive to think that everyone else think that way or express it that way, but I am convinced that regardless of how expressed, the "live and let live" attitude was the bedrock of social harmony in pre-70’s Caymanian society.  I am also not so naive to think that alone would solve our problems, but it would surely help!

        Education: yes, it is key and the three R’s as always are the foundation. But only the foundation, especially in the information age.  If you know how to use grammar and spell checker one can compensate for a lack of technical recall if one has the vocabulary. i.e. the knowledge to use the words according to their standard definitions.  It is much more challenging to compensate when a thirst for knowledge is not instilled and techniques on how to acquire it are not effectively taught.

    • Poly Glot says:

      As usual Whodatis, youn have put prejudice before understanding.

      The point that you miss is that the challenge for Cayman is the pitiful level of adult literacy produced bythe nation’s education system.  It is far lower than in the UK.  In fact if the CIG’s 90% figure that would put Cayman 97th in the world according to the UN.  The UK has a 99% literacy rate.

      And that is only talking about bare literacy.  GB’s article is dealing with impediments to adminstrative and professional employment.  That requires language skills far higher than mere literacy.  In that regard Cayman has failed its children by failing to prepare enough of them to take advantage of the opportunities on offer here. 

      • Anonymous says:

        "you have put prejudice before understanding".

        The funny thing is that this could more accurately be said about the majority of expat posts on here. 

        Cayman’s literacy rate needs some improvement but it is not "pitiful". According to Wikipedia Jamaica’s literacy rate is 79.9%.

        Gordon tainted his whole article by seizing upon this issue as an excuse for glass ceilings for Caymanians generally.   

        • Anonymous says:

          Sorry – but I think the word Pitiful describes the state of literacy in Cayman very well. That you chose to argue "we’re better than Jamaica" doesn’t help.

          But I do agree that there is a glass ceiling for many capable and educated Caymanians, and have seen it operate first hand.

  22. O'Really says:

    Gordon has a way of conveying ideas in language which, either consciously or unconsciously, provokes knee jerk reactions from readers so that the underlying kernels of truth get lost.

    Using the term glass ceiling is like a red rag to a bull for the conspiracy theorists who believe the only objective of expats is to keep good Caymanians down and soon the focus of the thread shifts.

    What Gordon should have said is that in the financial service industry at least, poor language skills prevent an individual from fulfilling his or her potential and this is true regardless of the nationality of the employee concerned. It is also true at all levels, but of more importance the higher up the hierarchy one goes. 

    English is the language of international business and within this context we are talking about something very similar to the Queen’s English. English as spoken by the majority of Caymanians is not a particularly close approximation of Queen’s English and there is a tendency for the written word to follow speech patterns. As such Caymanians in the financial service industry face an obstacle to fulfilling their potential not necessarily faced by their expat competitors. If Caymanians do not specifically address this issue, they face not a glass ceiling but a genuine shortfall of required skills. 

    A big part of the problem is a refusal of Caymanians to understand that in international business, the rules and performance expectation levels are set by the international community. Like it or not, if you speak to a visiting board of directors using a very local sentence structure there is a real chance that they will take you for a country bumpkin, whether or not what you are saying is on message. There is every chance that this assessment of performance will find its way back to your boss and will not be of benefit when job evaluations, in whatever form they take, are performed.

    There is an old Rugby club story to illustrate how local spoken sentence structure can ruin meaning.

    Expat:  Knock, knock.

    Caymanian: Who’s there?

    Expat: Boo.

    Caymanian: Who boo is?

    Facile maybe, but a good illustration of how quickly true meaning can be lost. 

    My experience tells me that each of us has a number of different speech patterns. I am not adverse to the occasional curse word passing my lips, but never, ever within earshot of my parents. Caymanians must learn to do the same, one speech pattern for home and friends, one for business contacts and probably one in between for colleagues. This will take work and you may have to swallow your pride but you don’t set the rules. If you want to play and succeed you need to make the effort and change and if you can’t be bothered or feel it is beneath you to make these types of concessions, prepare yourself for failure.

    I focused on the spoken word in this comment because the communication is instantaneous. The written word is equally important, but usually there is time to edit what is written, get it peer reviewed etc. On the other hand, the written word is out there far longer and for all to see.

    As for the opinions of overseas readers of this site, my view is that they are far less likely to be put off Cayman by poor spelling and grammar than they are by the obvious high level of tension which exists between locals and expats. That would be the subject of a much longer post! 

    Finally, I would like to congratulate " Caymanian " for the most idiotic comment I have yet read on CNS, " England claims, they invented the " English" language." I know you find it very hard to credit the English with anything, but really!!



    • Anonymous says:

      O’Really, we have strongly disagreed in other discussions on CNS but you are spot on with this one.

      Your comments re Gordon echo remarks which I made on here some time ago.    

    • Caymanian says:

      who’s the idiot now?

      Modern English developed with the Great Vowel Shift that began in 15th-century England, and continues to adopt foreign words from a variety of languages, as well as coining new words. A significant number of English words, especially technical words, have been constructed based on roots from Latin and ancient Greek.

      • O'Really says:

        Actually you are, you just don’t realise it.

        Forget references to foreign words, every language incorporates words from other languages and forget corruption of words or the introduction of slang. Languages develop all the time. They are not invented, they evolve, unless of course you think Klingon is a language.

        Focus on your own definition which says, quite simply " Modern English…. began in 15th century England" What part of that are you struggling to understand?

        I can’t quite work out if this post is as idiotic or more idiotic than your first. Either way it must be a source of great pride to be number 1 and 2. I look forward to your response, feel free to go for the top 3!


  23. american island boy says:

    As you have so elaquently (I had to look it up) put it we do have a way to put our views down for all to see so here is my two cents. What I see as the main problem for Cayman (I am an American) is what they seem to want for their future. Some want to just hang out and have no worries and have the island take care of them. Some want to have all the modern luxuries and the latest gadgets but don’t seem to understand the concept of working hard and often to get that. And more and more it seems that some of the younger crowd want to get a good education which will get them a good job and lead Cayman into the future themselves.

    Unfortunately The current leadership of the island seems to want to cater to the first two and ignore the third.  Like it or not it will be those from the third group who end up the future leaders of Cayman for the simple reason that if Cayman is going to be part of the modern world and I think most Caymanians want this, part of the qualification is to be led by people that are educated in the ways of the modern world. Leaders who themselves will be able to understand what it takes to compete successfully in the business world and have modern leadership values.

    The only way I see this happening is for the young educated Caymanians to fight their way into the old boy network and start to get Cayman working again.  Right now it is not to hard to see that Cayman is going backward with the current leadership.  So Courage, Strenght, get in there and show us all how you will lead Cayman back to the top.  All the best.

  24. Common sense says:

    We needto go back a few years to the political decision that was made to hire the majority of our teachers from the insular Caribbean. Nothing wrong with that, we have some great Caribbean teachers. However, what happened next was a seriously flawed hiring policy where interviewing and hiring of new teachers was all left until the last minute, and no thorough assessment of their skills and capabilities was put in place.

    If you hire teachers who themselves are only semi-literate with many also quite ignorant, then you cannot expect your children to be otherwise. What needs to happen is a serious and independent evaluation of the teachers themselves by independent professionals (not the Inspectors, too many locals in there). Then the various ministries and departments concerned need to get rid of the teachers who are holding our children back, and replace them with well trained, well educated people.

    That will not be a short process, but it needs to start now if the literacy and numeracy levels in this country are to be raised to acceptable international standards.



    • Anonymous says:

      Common sense are you saying the problem lies with the Caribbean teachers who you implied were are only semi-literate?? The remainder of your posts illustrates a few good points but I must say I struggled with your opening paragraph and your need to single out Caribbean teachers as inferior. Please do not try to justisfy your obvious bias by saying that you said "some".  There was no need to single out Caribbean teachers which I found highly offensive and reeks of English snobbery. Eliminate poor teachers regardless of where they are from.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Yes, Sir Gordon what have you done to help this situation other than criticize or are you part of the elite Cayman like former  Education minister and not Aldon. Who did nothing to fix this problem.

    • Poly Glot says:

      I think this post highlights Gordon’s concerns.  It is barely intelligible and grammatically hopeless.

  26. Babelfish says:

    If some of the schools spent less time teaching the Bible, especially as a scientific text then maybe standards of English would improve.  Perhaps rather than talking about the employment glass ceiling, the term "employment firmament" could be used.

    • Anonymous says:

      What a nonsensical statement. No one here teaches "Bible" as a scientific text. Teaching "Bible" does not displace the teaching of English or any other academic subject and so has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue of poor English. It is apparent that you are using the issue as a pretext for your anti-religious agenda.  I thought it was the religious folk who were supposed to be incapable of rational thinking.

      • Chuck Darwin says:

        "What a nonsensical statement. No one here teaches "Bible" as a scientific text. Teaching "Bible" does not displace the teaching of English or any other academic subject"

        The poster was not talking nonsense.

        First Bible study takes up school time, time which could be spent teaching core subjects.

        Secondly it certainly replaces physics and zoology/biology by teaching that the world, the universe and the creatures living around us were all created by magic.

        • Anonymous says:

          Like I said the core subject are taught and it no way replaces the sciences which are also taught.   The statement is nonsense and irrelevant nonsense at that since physics and zoology have nothing whatever to do with learning correct English. 



  27. Anonymous says:

    The grammar and spelling displayed in so many responses on this forum is an indictment of the Cayman Islands school system—and its graduates. It is evidence, on display to the world, of the collective ignorance of far too many of our people.

    Mr. Barlow is correct in his implication that $100 million-plus schools will not contribute one iota to ameliorating this national embarrassment.

    There is an uncomfortable truth, out of fashion in political and even academic circles, that one learns in direct proportion to how much time one studies.

    • Anonymous says:

      While I agree with your last point to a certain extent, it’s certainly not true across the board. The amount of time devoted to studies is not the only factor, nor even necessarily the most important, relative to academic success. What truly matters the most, in my opinion and experience, is the ability of teachers to relate subject matter to students in a way that corresponds to their individual needs and learning styles. If a teacher can get a student to relate to what they are attempting to learn, study time can be cut drastically because there are far more effective methods than the antiquated memorization through brute repetition. If we can train the right teachers, we will make a huge difference for current and future students.

      Also, while $100 million facilities aren’t going to solve the problem, they certainly don’t make it worse. Students are generally happier (and more likely then to be productive and receptive) when they can take pride in their learning environment.

      There’s no silver bullet for education – what we need is a multi-faceted approach aimed toward instilling pride in our students and motivating and connecting to them on an individual basis. Easier said than done, but we must focus on moving in that direction rather than thinking one or two policy changes will cure our current educational woes.

    • hahehihohu says:

      indictment or indicative?

  28. Joe Average says:

    I firmly agree with the poster at 13:15.  There is more to the glass ceiling than dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, there is also that elitist attitude that many find obnoxious. 

    Now that we are suitably humbled by your eloquence Mr. Barlow, you can get down from your pulpit before you get dizzy.  Yeah mon.

    • Bologna says:

      Don’t forget hard work and common sense Joe. Those too can be attributed to that glass ceiling.

  29. Anonymous says:

     "But we were told that the government Community College had the matter under control and would we please back off. Ohhh-kay. How has that worked out?"

    You are hitting the nail on the head.  UCCI does a lot of remedial work.  However, that is not what college is supposed to focus on, but rather offer it as a support service.  I can tell you that UCCI does not want to spend half the year getting “college” students to the very basic levels or reading, writing and math’s.  

    What Cayman needs is a certain standard of English and Math before graduation.  You should not be able to graduate from high school if you do not meet this requirement.  You should be tested your final year (before the school year starts) and those that fall below it should attend Saturday classes for as long as it takes to get their English and Math skills up to part.

    Excellent article!

    I am sure there will be people who will comment here that again try and tell you that you are wrong, which I think just shows the point as the English mistakes will be rampant.

    • Anonymous says:

      "I am sure there will be people who will comment here that again try and tell you that you are wrong, which I think just shows the point as the English mistakes will be rampant".

      So anyone who disagrees with Gordon Barlow (especially if they are Caymanian) is necessarily poorly educated and will inevitably make many "English mistakes"? Do you have any idea how very ignorant and arrogant that sounds? 

      P.S. I just could not resist:  it is maths not "math’s".  

      • Anonymous says:

        It actually is math in most places of the world, but I was being kind and trying to use the Caribbean/UK version of math!  So in my world it is math’s (plural version of math!).  Try pasting it into spell check and you will see.

        No, there are people who might disagree with Gordon, but my point was I bet those that let their emotions speak for them will prove his point.  Certainly a good debate has both sides of an argument!

        • Anonymous says:

          When in hole quit digging. The British version is "maths" while the American is "math". You have incorrectly put "math’s" while chastising Caymanians for poor English. Adding an apostrophe does not pluraIize a noun. I am afraid that you are alone in your world. Try using your dictionary and be corrected.  

          There are posters who have eloquently countered Gordown Barlow’s arguments.

  30. Young.KY.female says:

    While I agree with your general argument, the word is "patois," not "patwa."  But this isn’t English anyway so we’ll let it slide.

    I only wish the amount of criticism that went into this blog/reporting website regarding language, and education for that matter, was present for each and every student and adult alike (and gracefully accepted).

  31. Caymanian says:

    "I don’t mean the use of phonetic spelling and pretend-patwa words by some contributors as a way of excluding "  It’s "PATOIS", and it’s actually a FRENCH word.

    You should probably read over or spell check, check YOUR punctuation, before you decide to generalize and put caymanians down. XXXX  I read this over, and there’s too much "punctuation" mistakes to list out!

    Most Caymanians’, type the way they speak so that other Caymanians can get a sense of how they’re feeling. Their frustrations, their joy.. etc..  That does not mean that they’re illiterate! Idiot!

    England claims, they invented the "English" language.  That was very hard to believe when i visited London last summer. No one seemed to speak English at all!!  I never understood a word!  

    Do you think, i would ever go to another man’s country and tell him the way he is speaking is WRONG!? I would sit back, and try to understand his culture, and try VERY HARD to understand what the hell he was saying!  I mean what the hell is "innit" or "sawr" or "idear" that’s not English friend!

    So why don’t you go watch some "mary poppins", have a "cup-o-tea" and stop generalizing and calling Caymanians stupid, because they don’t feel like living up to your stupid expectations!

    • Anonymous says:

       Hooray! The first real piece of anti ex-pat vitriol. I look forward to a lot more. This has to be the most insecure population on Earth. But then, what have you got to be proud of? You didn’t make 7-mile Beach. You just bug****d it up. Mangrove clearance is coming along nicely too isn’t it?

      • kd says:

         Ah yes… posts like this shall surely improve the situation. Thanks for your positive input there ol’ chap. 

        • Anonymous says:

          Definitely will help. Respect begets respect. Malicious talk does not.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think it’s the other way around mate! I’ve never seen such desperate people like yourself (some of us call them ‘foreign fruitcakes’) who are consistently ‘reminding’ Caymanians that they are anti-expat, stupid etc. yet they insist on living here! Gimme a break! We know you all just don’t wanna go back home, of course not – your kind have convinced yourselves that you are the smarter, better breed and therefore YOU deserve this lil paradise, not us! Well too bad, as the old time saying goes ‘we are here to stay, you are here to go’! So sit back and continue to be entertained by expat vitriol – we have to put up with your crap so you can either put up with ours or take up on that other option available to you!  And by the way, if you all were such a secure bunch you would not have to constantly put us down. Now take that and eat if for ya suppa! And Mr. Barlow….when you going give up?

        • Anonymous says:

          Evidence of my (our) desperation? I live here mixing 95% with the ex-pat community and only meeting Caymanians at filling stations, shops etc. At least, I assume they are Caymanians. The climate minus the whingeing locals adds up to perfection. So why would I go?

          I have not convinced myself that I am smarter or better than Caymanians. It is just that it is rammed down my throat by Caymanians every day. I shall go when I am good and ready to go. I have a house and a business to go home to when the time is right and it will not be for a few years yet!

          The Caymanian obsession with spouting ex-pat vitriol is founded, whatever you may say, on envy and jealously. This country has acquired for itself a reputation for dodgy dealing, corruption, cronyism and it’s who you know rather than what you are capable of that gets you anywhere. It’s the Nigeria of the Caribbean.


          • Anonymous says:

            "This country has acquired for itself a reputation for dodgy dealing, corruption, cronyism and it’s who you know rather than what you are capable of that gets you anywhere. It’s the Nigeria of the Caribbean".

            Why were you attracted to come to a place with such a reputation? Why are you insisting on staying for few more years in such a place? Are you involved in dodgy dealing, corruption etc? Do you realize that you are doing precisely what you are ascusing us of – "spouting (anti Caymanioan) vitriol". The ‘Nigeria of the Caribbean’ is obviously malicious and silly.

            You will find that expats who have a good attitude and respect Caymanians have respect returned in buckets.

          • anon says:

            give me your true name son (coward).. i bet you’ll be off of paradise and back to your cold dreary country with a house the size of a thumb tack before "you’re good and ready"!!

          • Anonymous says:

             So you invite me to your house for dinner, and I walk in the door and I say:

            "Nice house, but I don’t really like any of your relatives, or your friends, or what you’ve done with the place, and I don’t really think you’ve made much of an effort to clean the place up, oh and couldn’t you have got someone else to cook the meal, because I don’t really like it. How about making some food from my country? It’s much better than the slop you’re used to.  I hope you’ve invited some of my friends too, because I’m not going to condescend to talk to your people unless I absolutely have to.  By the way, I’m planning on hanging around until it suits me to leave, but don’t worry, I’ll continue to tell you how badly I think of every little thing you do until I go".

            I think I would be entirely deserving of any vitriol which ensued.

            I get a bit upset by the expat bashing that goes on too, but comments like yours help me to understand why it does.  Remember that you are a guest in another man’s country. I suspect you would by unhappy if comments like yours were made by guest workers in your own country.


    • agricola says:

      "Most Caymanians’, type the way they speak so that other Caymanians can get a sense of how they’re feeling. Their frustrations, their joy.. etc..  That does not mean that they’re illiterate! Idiot"

      Actually the reason a great number of locals write a certain way is because when they were younger they could not be bothered to learn the proper way.

      "I read this over, and there’s too much "punctuation" mistakes to list out!"

      Ummh, "there’s too much"…ha ha ha ha ha  Try, "there are too many"…  English isn’t my first or second language – but you wouldn’t understand…


      • Anonymous says:

        Since English is not your first or second language I infer that you did not grow up here. If so it is presumptuous to be making statements like this:

        "Actually the reason a great number of locals write a certain way is because when they were younger they could not be bothered to learn the proper way".

        In any event the writer was quite correct.  

  32. Anonymous says:

    Gordon, you are correct that it is quite likely that the generation of Caymanians who were schooled in the one-roomed schoolhouses can probably read and write better than their grandchildren. However, I don’t necessarily agree with another of your unfounded ‘conspiracy theories’ that "pretend-patwa" (sic), actually, patois, is intended to exclude certain demographics from the conversations/blogs. Here you go again with your divisive habits. No, it is simply that since the late 1970’s, our eductaion system has been a political football and has been decimated, to the disadvantage of those who have passed through it.  Yes, sadly, it is a fact that most elders in our society can read and write better than most of our youth but that is indicative of the regression as a society that we have experienced in the last thirty years. Regression? Yes, quite clearly! As a simple example, I recall in the early 1970’s Bodden Town alone had three active farms – a dairy farm (Caribbean Farms) which delivered fresh milk every morning by Milk Maids in Mini Mokes; a poultry farm (Mijall Farms) which delivered fresh roasters to the stores every day and a packaging plant (orange juice, regular and flavoured milks). In West Bay there was a beef farm (Bothwell’s) and an egg farm (fresh eggs daily). For entertainment, in every district except East End and North Side were cinemas (GT & BT had 2 each), skating rink ( BT), etc.,etc.

    Needless to say, there was no unemployment, very negliblible crime (only domestic in nature), no Immigration issues (yes there were many expats here – we all got along), and no, we were not in the ‘Dark Ages’, waiting to be brought into the light by the expat Bwana, as many here and abroad have been led to believe.

    Hey, you came here in the 1970’s and you were comfortable, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t have stayed (I would surmise).

    Therefore, the ‘development’ that we have since experienced and those who’ve been a part of that has/have played an integral part of the changes, wouldn’t you say?

    So, yes, I say we have regressed and we had a lot of imported help.  But that is not the point because we have claimed to be the mastersof our own destiny so, as a matter of honour, we can’t pass the buck. So back to the crux of the matter: ultimately, therefore, I agree with you on the fix. Let’s see if this group of ‘change agents’ will effect the changes needed to correct the problem.

    By the way, I’m Caymanian (to the bone), hope my grammar is good enough and sorry but I don’t speak or write patois.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Since expats are brought to Cayman for their qualifications and experience it would stand to reason that, at least in the financial services sector, their level of education would be better than that of the average Caymanian. However, it is therefore surprising that there are also many examples of poor grammar, sentence construction etc. amongst expat posters. 

    The case against unfair glass ceilings for Caymanians has been articulated by a number of Caymanian posters who are obviously bright, educated people. Their posts do not provide any evidence of inferior education as Mr. Barlow suggests.  

    It is certainly true that our educational standards, although rising, need to be improved. It is also true that many who post on CNS hurriedly steal a moment to do so while at work with scarcely a moment for review. In other cases the posters do not care so long was their point is made.  It would therefore be unrealistic to expect these to attain to the quality of a well-considered article.

    By the same token the substance of the posts often reflect a ‘heat of the moment’ reaction to a post which is perceived as offensive and which, I suspect, is often regretted shortly after the poster clicks "save". I believe that had there been the opportunity for mature reflection many of the more egregious posts would not have been posted.  While I appreciate the facility that CNS offers, this is the danger of almost real-time exchanges. 

    However, I am concerned that under the guise of concern for poorly educated Caymanians and the need to upgrade our educational system, Mr. Barlow is seeking to impugn the validity of the case that there is an unfair glass ceiling against Caymanians by suggesting that any glass ceiling is self-imposed by a lack of education.  That would be false.    

    • Anonymous says:

      The glass ceiling may also therefore be partly due to these Caymanians continuously ‘stealing a moment’ to write comments on CNS. If they spent less time stealing moments to update facebook, text their friends, check private emails etc and more time actually working then they would find that those glass ceilings are no longer in place and as long as they are prepared to work as hard as their expatriate counterparts and not use sick days as extra holiday or turn up late most days then they would notice how the opportunities at work open up for them.

      A slight attitude adjustment and a move away from the entitlement mentality will reap benefits for those educated Caymanians. They must be prepared to put in the effort in their jobs and work their way up like everybody else has. They shouldn’t expect management positions straight from High School, everybody else has years of experience and usually are very qualified to get those roles.

      Those at the lower end need to learn to read and write rather than making teenage girls into mothers.

      • Anonymous says:

        Caymanians are obviously not the only ones posting on CNS. Why is it that they are the ones experiencing the glass ceiling?

        Just another bigoted comment.  

        • Anonymous says:

          Like it or not, a well qualified expatriate working at 50% capacity is still much more productive than an unqualified Caymanian working at 50%.

          The expats in professional positions have generally been well brought up, don’t shoot each other or rape children, but more importantly they have university degrees and professional qualifications, unlike the Caymanians in similar roles whose only qualification is being Caymanian.

          All companies have to employ a percentage of Caymanians in senior positions so that immigration will allow them to get expats that they really need. It is those Caymanians that have earnt their positions simply by being Caymanian and they should be pleased that thereare no discrimination laws or human rights here or they would be pumping gas or picking bananas rather than working in an office on cruise control, spending hours a day on personal calls and complaining about glass ceilings.

          Yes there are a lot of expats that come here for a working vacation but even in holiday mode they are more productive than 99% of Caymanians in similar roles. Even Caymanian managers and especially HR managers know the score, that they have to employ maybe 2 sub-standard Caymanians in order to get a work permit for 1 expat who is actually capable and willing to to do the job.


      • Uncivil Servant says:

        Computer Services got Facebook blocked, but not CNS! Thank god they haven’t taken away my Blackberry yet though so I can still do all my necessary Facebooking throughout the day!

  34. o.c.m. says:

    If children came to school with the right attitude you could have a 15 year old teach a novice reader to read – under the shade of a palm tree…  Forget about having to spend $50 million/school. Unfortunately, the poor attitude of students these days is manifested by their dress, their demeanour, and their attitudes; a result of what they see and learn at home, the attitudes, the carelessness, theirresponsibility, etc.

  35. wasteoftime says:

    But you see Gordon a "reading strategy" does not grab headlines; it lulls the general, disinterested public to sleep.  A reading strategy is not a great photo opportunity.  Spending $150+ million on new schools in order to "improve" learning, now that’s headline grabbing and provides for many future great photo opportunities…

  36. Anonymous says:

    By the way my boss is not an "expat"…

  37. Anonymous says:

    I do not know why people rant and rave so much over posters comments on this site, with words that are spelt incorrectly. To me CNS is not a grammar quiz but more like a blog. I certainly do not mind if someone spells a word wrong or if they use slang, instead of proper English. Most of the time, there is a topic headlined and persons just feel so passionate about it that the just type and do not check, and double check to see that things are spelt correctly. I know that it is a good practice but as long as we can see their point of view… But anyway… since we are talking about words and spelling, the correct spelling is PATOIS- not ‘patwa’ as it is sounded. Lol

    Just because you post a comment which may be grammatically incorrect, or with a few misspelled words, does not mean that you are incapable of being suitable for a job.


    It does not matter what part of the world you are in, people will always have opposing views, so I don’t know why Cayman would be exempt from it.

  38. Anon says:

    You want to see how many "chavs" in the UK can’t even fill a form for benefits out without spelling mistakes!  Poor grammar and punctuation are a feature worldwide of pooreducation and a general decline standards across the board..  If the vice-president of the USA can’t spell "potatoe" (sic) even though he managed to become V-P there is little hope for the rest of the world!  Nonetheless I enjoyed your article.  Nothing annoys me more than seeing an apostrophe which indicates posession in the wrong place. 

    • Anon says:

      But most of them Chav’s don’t have jobs either – which perhaps goes to further demonstrate the point being made, and show it to be a worldwide problem as opposed to a problem unique to Cayman?

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes I know it doesn’t belong but I couldn’t resist – I put the apostrophe there just to annoy you!