Bislama Introductory Language Lessons

Bislama Introductory Language Lessons
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Peace Corps Vanuatu, 2010. - 20 p.

Bislama is the national language of the Republic of Vanuatu. It is a pidgin derived from English, French and indigenous languages that is spoken throughout the country as the lingua franca; a
common tongue which enables communication between the many different language communities of Vanuatu. There are more than one hundred recognized languages spoken in Vanuatu by the approximately 220, 000 residents of the islands, excluding the European languages of English and French. There is a distinct language for, on average, every 2,200 inhabitants of Vanuatu which makes it the country with one of the highest, if not the highest, and language densities in the world. It is not surprising; therefore, that a common language should develop that ensures communication amongst all citizens.

In addition, English and French are spoken and understood by many ni-Vanuatu (as the citizens
of the republic choose to be called), however, it is rare for a ni-Vanuatu to speak both English and French - especially outside the capital Port Vila on the island of Efate. One cause of this
situation is that in pre-Independence times (pre-1980) the British and French condominium government duplicated facilities; they established competing British and French schools. The net result was that those ni-Vanuatu who attended French schools were educated in French, while students at the British schools were educated in English.

Since independence the two-language education system has been maintained, and is, in fact, specified in the Vanuatu constitution. This situation effectively ruled out the possibility of either English or French becoming the national language. The only language that is spoken throughout the country is Bislama, and this has occurred only relatively recently. Previously Bislama was not at all well known in some of the more remote areas, especially among women, who typically do not tend to travel outside their immediate area. Since Bislama is the only universal language of Vanuatu, it is not surprising that it was proclaimed the national language of the Republic in the country’s constitution.

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