Although there are hundreds of languages spoken in Vanuatu, only three of them are considered official. These three languages are English, French, and Bislama. Bislama is the first language to most people living in Port Vila and Luganville, a region called ni-Vanuatu. To most people living in other cities, Bislama is a second language. Compared to French and English, Bislama is the most popular. Previous data shows that French is in the second place in terms of popularity while English is in the last place. Bislama is a creole language with its roots primarily from the English language with some similarities to Papua New Guinea’s Tok Pisin.

Data shows that the state has the highest language density per capital on the globe. There are approximately 110 languages spoken in the state with each language having roughly 2000 speakers. Some islands like the Malakula and Espiritu Santo are more language-diverse and have people who speak around 24 different languages. Statistics show that Bislama is dominating as a first language for most people to the point where it is threatening the existence of other indigenous languages.Between the year 1999 and 2009, the use of indigenous languages has dropped from 73.1% to 63.2% due to the increased usage of Bislama.

Although 95% of the words in the Bislama language are derived from English, the language is quite dissimilar. Compared to English, it is simpler grammatically. However, its simplicity only makes it harder to explain some concepts thus its wordiness. Some common keywords include:

  • The word belong translates to “blong.”
  • The word “long” can mean from, to, in, and on.

There is also a simplification of the personal pronouns. All of the personal pronouns become “mi.”

Native languages in Vanuatu number about 138. However, because of numerous dialects among some languages, it becomes extremely difficult to ascertain the exact number of languages. All the native languages in Vanuatu are Oceanic. Some of the languages are Emae, Mele-Fila, Futuna-Aniwa, Aore, Daakie, Koro, Ifo, Mavea, Lewo, Tangoa, Nese, and many others. Some of the languages that have become endangered by the increased usage of Bislama are ske, Bangsa, Matanvat, Araki, Naman, and others. Ske speakers, for example, number about 300 people only.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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