Saturday, September 18, 2021

Language & Phrasebook in Vanuatu

Australia and OceaniaVanuatuLanguage & Phrasebook in Vanuatu

The official languages are English, French, and Bislama. Bislama is a pidgin language – and now a creole in urban areas – that blends a characteristically Melanesian syntax with a mostly English vocabulary. It is the sole language that the whole Vanuatu population understands and speaks, usually as a second language.

It is a combination of phonetic English weaved into a loose French sentence structure spoken with “local sound,” resulting in some amusing results, such as women brassieres or swimming tops being referred to as “Basket blong titi”; no harm meant. ‘A New Bislama Dictionary,’ by the late Terry Crowley, is an outstanding Bislama dictionary accessible at reputable bookstores. Some examples of popular Bislama words/phrases are:

  • Me / you – mi / yu
  • Him / her / it (neither masculine nor feminine)
  • this here – hem/ hemia
  • Us /we / all of us – mifala / mifala evriwan
  • You / you (plural) – yu / yufala
  • I do not know/understand – mi no save
  • See you later / ta ta – Lukim yu/ tata
  • I am going now – ale (French derivation of allez) mi go
  • One/ two / three – wan / tu / tri
  • How much (is that) – hamas (long hem)
  • Plenty or many – plenti
  • Filled to capacity / overfilled – fulap / fulap tumas (too much)
  • Day / evening / night – dei / sava (literally supper) / naet
  • Hot / cold – hot / kol
  • What / what is that – wanem / wanem ia (literally wanem here?)
  • Why / why did you – frowanem (for why?)
  • Please / thank you / sorry (very sorry) – plis / tangkyu / sori (sori tumas) – sorry too much
  • Do you know – yu save (pronounced savee)

Furthermore, 113 indigenous languages are still spoken in Vanuatu. The density of languages per population is the greatest of any country in the world, with just 2000 speakers per language on average. All of these vernacular languages are members of the Austronesian family’s Oceanic branch.