I’ve prided myself in learning a least a smattering of each local language- but reverting so some unappealing American ethnocentrism, I seem try English first in Vanuatu and am almost sorry to find that it works every time. I think I may have succombed somewhat to the disappointment of a fleeting stay in a place that deserves months if not years to explore.
Still, it’s impossible not to be fascinated with the literal puzzle of reading and understanding some Bislama.
Port Vila Public Library – Vanuatu Cultural Center
Vanuatu has over 100 local languages, and the inherited official languages of French and English- the result of the “condominium” period of the early 20th century when France and England shared colonial governance of the country. The true linga franca, however, is Bislama. A refinement of pidgin English, it was evolved based on contact with Europeans as a way to facilitate trade and communication between islanders with different mother tongues. Literal English is transposed on the Melanesian syntax.
Bird – pijin
Parrot – grinfala pijin
Sea bird – ol pijin blong solwata
Thank you for your help. – Tankyu tumas long help.
What is your name? – Nam blong yu emi wannem?
How much is one lemon? – Mi pem hamas wan lamen?
It appears simple at first, but is a fully developed language with a fully developed vocabulary and grammar. It may be derived in great part from English, but as a unifying language that developed *in* the islands, it has an important part of self-identification for ni-Vanuatu.
Time to bone up on some vocabulary.
Manioc (cassava) bundles for the airport