Bislama (Vanuatu Pidgin)
Bislama is a form of Melanesian Pidgin, with a vocabulary based on simplified English but a Melanesian sound and grammar. It originally evolved on plantations where Melanesian labourers from different areas with no common language were brought into contact with one another.
Bislama is the national language of Vanuatu, and is related to the pidgin langauges spoken in Papua New Guniea (Tok Pisin) and the neighbouring Solomon Islands. Bislama is spoken alongside native langauges by the majority of rural ni-Vanuatu, and is often the first language of young people in towns. Virtually all adult men in Vanuatu are fluent in the language, as are many women and children.
I recommend that anyone who is thinking of learning Bislama - which should be anyone who is planning to spend time in Vanuatu - invests in a copy of Bislama: An introduction to the national language of Vanuatu by Darrell Tryon.
A short guide to speaking Bislama is available on this web site to get you started.
For a thorough description of the grammar of Bislama, get a copy of Bislama Reference Grammar by Terry Crowley.
The most comprehensive dictionary of Bislama is A New Bislama Dictionary by Terry Crowley.
Much simpler dictionaries are available for download on this web site. These dictionaries are designed to reflect Bislama as it is spoken on rural islands, and therefore lack a lot of urban words such as "bus" and "air conditioning" (most of which come straight from English anyway). If you have any comments or corrections on these, please get in touch. I'd appreciate the feedback.
These dictionaries are PDF files. To view them you need Adobe Acrobat Reader (available free online) or similar software.
A single-word Bislama/English translator is also available on the TVET web site.
© Andrew Gray, 2010