Bislama

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Bislama
RegionVanuatu
Native speakers
6,000 (2001)
200,000 L2 speakers[source?]
English Creole
  • Pacific
    • Bislama
Latin
Official status
Official language in
 Vanuatu
Language codes
ISO 639-1bi
ISO 639-2bis
ISO 639-3bis
Linguasphere52-ABB-ce

Bislama is one of the three national languages of Vanuatu. It is a new language, made during the last two or three hundred years by mixing English with some French and some local words. The way the words are put together is like people have talked in Vanuatu for a long time -- not like English or French words are put together.

Bislama is like this:

Stoa long haos - The store next to the house.
Buk blong mi - My book.
Bambae mi wantem bia - I will want beer.

History[change | change source]

Between the 1870s and the 1880s, hundreds of thousands of Pacific islanders (many of them from the New Hebrides) were forced to work on plantations, mainly in the state of Queensland, Australia, and Fiji. A pidgin was formed out of the several languages spoken in these plantations. It combined English vocabulary with the grammar from the languages of the region. This early plantation pidgin was the origin of Bislama, Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea and Pijin from the Solomon Islands.

This creole started spreading throughout the Vanuatu archipelago at the turn of the 20th century. Because there are 113 languages spoken in Vanuatu, Bislama serves as a lingua franca for communication.

The first dictionary of Bislama was published in 1995. Its second edition was published in 2004. This has helped to create a standardised and uniform spelling of written Bislama.

Besides Bislama, most ni-Vanuatu also know their local language. The country's official languages used for education are English and French.

Grammar[change | change source]

Two frequent words in Bislama are "long" and "blong", which take the place of many prepositions in English.

"Long"[change | change source]

  • Long as 'next to', 'by', 'beside' etc.
    Stoa long haos
    The store next to the house.
  • long as 'at' or 'to'
    Mi bin stap long ples ia bifo
    I have been to this place before.
    Mi stap long stoa
    I am at the store.
  • long as 'in'
    Jea long haos
    The chair in the house.

Long has many other related meanings, and is sometimes used in improvisation.

"Blong"[change | change source]

Originally from the English word "belong", blong takes the place of 'of' or the genitive case in other languages. Just like of in English, it is one of the most widely used and versatile words in the language, and can indicate possession, country of origin, defining characteristics, intention, and others.

Buk blong mi
The book that belongs to me, my book
Man blong Amerika
Man from America, American.
Hemi woman blong saiens
She is a woman of science, She is a scientist.
Man blong dring
Man of drinking i.e. a drinker

Other websites[change | change source]