The official language of Reunion Island is French and this has been the main method of communication since the official French colonization of the mid-1600s. Portuguese may have been used for several years before the French settlement, but information on the language in Reunion is hard to come by. Modern French language evolved during the Romance Period of Indo-European languages (7th to 9th Century) and Reunion is one of 26 French-speaking nations within Africa.

Although French is the official language of the country, Reunionese Creole is the native language of 90% of the population. This Creole-based language is derived from French and contains influences from Malay, Hindi, Portuguese, Malagasy, and Tamil. Reunionese Creole evolved quickly in the first 50 years of French colonisation as many families had at least one member who spoke French. Many inhabitants were French, Indo-Portuguese, or Malagasy, which led to the creation and adoption of a similar tongue for most citizens.

Many on the island will not have any knowledge of English as most visitors are from France or from the African mainland. French phrases are relatively easy to learn and the majority of people will understand basic French. Hello is written as bonjour and pronounced as "bon-jour" and is a very common greeting in any society that speaks French. Saying "je suis de" and then adding the country or city of origin is the correct way to say "I am from (location)". "Mer-ci" is also an easy word to learn and it means thank-you.

Asian minority languages in Reunion Island include Chinese, Cantonese, Mandarin, but many of these speakers are of older generations. Younger citizens tend to converse in French and Reunionese Creole as the country has evolved. There are a number of Indian languages spoken in the country such as Gujarati, Tamil, and Urdu. Arabic is taught is mosques and those who align with Islam will know religious phrases in Arabic. German and Spanish are offered in schools and English fluency is rare.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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