Languages


History

There are 3 main languages in Vanuatu, English, French and Bislama.

In addition to the more than 113 languages and dialects
characteristic to the ni-Vanutau, a broad range of linguistic skills was developed through contact with various foreign traders.

Derived from Bech-der-mer, or sea cucumber traders, who introduced pidgin English throughout the pacific region, Bislama arose as a means of communication with the Europeans. Upon first contact the ni-Vanutau and the Europeans had no language in common; as a result, they developed Bislama. Beginning as a form of simplified English with bits of informal French and Spanish added in, Bislama grew and transformed into its own unique language resembling Solomon and New Guinea pidgin.

The simple grammar associated with Bislama leads to a lack of terms necessary to clarify complex ideas. These ideas or concepts that have not previously been introduced to speakers of Bislama require functional descriptions. This produces considerably long explanations when compared to their English translation. All people and objects, regardless of gender, are referred to in masculine form, which might be considered offensive in other cultures.

Bislama is phonetically English but spoken with a thick accent; therefore, it may be difficult for someone whose is unfamiliar with the dialect to comprehend unless the speaker communicates slowly with careful enunciation. In written form, the language is fairly simple to understand.


Common Phrases

English Bislama
the best nambawan (number one)
please / thank you / sorry (very sorry) plis / tangkyu / sori (sori tumas) – sorry too much
One/ two / three wan / tu / tri
plenty or many plenti
filled to capacity / overfilled fulap / fulap tumas (too much)
me / you mi / yu
him / her / it (neither masculine nor femenin)/// this
here
hem /// hemia
us /we / all of us mifala / mifala evriwan
you / you (plural) yu / yufala
Day / evening / night dei / sava (literally supper) / naet
hot / cold hot / kol
We have a short wait Weit smol (wait small)
I am ill/ my stomach (belly) is sore mi harem no gud/bel blong mi i soa
What / what is that wanem / wanem ia (literally wanem here?)
Why / why did you frowanem (for why?)
Water / Drinking water / cold water / ocean wota / freswoto / kolwota / solwota (also dipsea or seep sea,
depending on the context in which it is used)
How much (is that) hamas (long hem)
Do you know yu save (pronounced savee)
I do not know/understand mi no save
this is broken down/ not working samting ia hemi bugarap (literally something here is buggered up)
Can you take me to Luganville yu save sakem mi long Luganville (where sakem literally means chuck.
I am very happy mi glad tumas (me glad too much)
See you later / ta ta Lukim yu/ tata
I am going now ale (French derivation of allez) mi go