The official language in New Caledonia is French. Other regional languages include twenty-eight Kanak languages such as Drehu, Nengone, Paicî, and Iaai. French is a Romance language which originated from the Indo- European linguistic family. It is descended from Vulgar Latin which was used during the time of the Roman Empire. The French alphabet is made up of twenty six basic Latin script letters as well as four vowel diacritics and two ligatures. New Caledonia is home to a specific French dialect known as Caldoche.

Because of its status as an overseas territory of the European nation of France the French language is spoken throughout the entire territory of New Caledonia. According to figures from 2009 just over 97% of local residents aged fifteen and over are able to read, speak, and write French while only 1.1% report having no knowledge of the language.

Useful French phrases and words commonly heard throughout New Caledonia include the greetings “Salut” (casual), “Bonjour” (to be used in the morning and afternoon), and “Bonsoir” (for use after six PM). To welcome someone is simply to say, “Bienvenue”. The French phrase used to inquire where someone lives is, “Où vis-tu?” or “Où vivez-vous?” Asking for the time can be achieved with the phrase, “Quelle heure est-il?”

Minority languages spoken on the island of New Caledonia include a variety of native Kanak languages such as Drehu, Nengone, Paicî, and Iaai. Other regional languages include Ajië and Xârâcùù. Drehu, also known as Lifou, has about 12,000 speakers and is primarily spoken on Lifou Island which is part of the Loyalty Islands. Nengone is also native to the Loyalty Islands as well as the island of Maré. Paicî is spoken by some 7,300 local residents.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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