Vanuatu claims to have the highest number of different languages per capita in the world. There are at least 105 different languages in addition to the official languages English, French and Bislama. All these languages are spoken by no more than 5000 people. The many indigenous languages are a result of the fact that the ni-Vanuatu have always lived in small isolated communities.
Bislama (French: Bichlamar or Bichelamar) is a "lingua franca", a common language that allows people with different linguistic backgrounds to communicate with each other. Students who attend French-speaking schools and English-speaking schools can also communicate with each other through Bislama. Bislama evolved from business English (pidgin), which was used by Europeans trading in the Pacific from around 1830. The Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea have a similar language, although the Bislama of Vanuatu is also influenced by French.
The following are some words in English, Bislama and French:
|I'm sorry||mi sori tomas||pardon|
English has about 35,000 words, Bislama only about 2,500. It takes a lot of inventiveness to bridge the difference, which has resulted in colourful expressions. For example, the French were called "man wiwi", which literally means "people who say oui oui (French for yes)".
O'Byrne, D. / Vanuatu
Stanley, D. / South Pacific Handbook
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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