Tok Tok Bislama

Pidgin English is a simplified and phonetically spelled version of it's mother tongue. Not only that but Pidgin English is not just one language but rather a category of languages based off of English that was adapted by indigenous populations initially for trade purposes. Vanuatu, which is home to an astounding 100+ native languages, has it's own form of pidgin English called Bislama. Bislama is the most widely spoken language of the native ni-Vanuatu people. 

As an English nerd, I was really delighted each time I came across some signage in Bislama. When reading it, it seemed super easy to understand. In person, though, it doesn't sound much like English. Try sounding out some of the phrases in the pictures from our trip (see below). Now sound them out more quickly as if you were conversing. Tough to understand, eh?

 "Goodfellow toilet paper belongs to us."

"Goodfellow toilet paper belongs to us."

 This computer in a cape drops prices every day. Every day, you guys.

This computer in a cape drops prices every day. Every day, you guys.

The phrases that we learned were easy enough to pick up:
Thank you = Tangkyu tumas
Welcome = Welkam
Speak Bislama = Tok tok Bislama
Cool/Great/Number One = Nambawan
What is your name? = Name blong yu?

Two of my favorite words that we learned in Bislama are man-faol and woman-faol aka man fowl (rooster) and woman fowl (hen).

 The number one water of Vanuatu! Good Water, Good Life!

The number one water of Vanuatu! Good Water, Good Life!

 It is taboo to smoke in this here place.

It is taboo to smoke in this here place.

In case you were thinking of visiting Vanuatu and worrying that you'd struggle with Bislama - don't. If you speak English slightly slower than usual and stick to non-slangy words, you will be understood by Bislama-speakers everywhere. Not only that, but most ni-Vanuatu in Port Vila and Luganville and other tourist destinations will speak fluent English. If you're a French speaker, you're also in luck because, though it hasn't been a French colony for many years now, there are quite a few French schools around the country.

 I LOVE this phonetic spelling of construction.

I LOVE this phonetic spelling of construction.

 Another easy, cognate phrase: Evacuation Road.

Another easy, cognate phrase: Evacuation Road.

All in all, it was a delight to read, learn, and (somewhat) communicate in Bislama on our trip. (And, in all honesty, trying to sound out signs became a when-in-Vanuatu hobby of mine.) All in all, the delightful language  of Bislama is one of the many reasons why I hope I will return to Vanuatu some day.