Monday, October 25, 2010

October 13, 2010 Bislama

One of the great things about our travels has been the opportunity to tickle that part of the brain that makes you communicate in different languages. Spanish is certainly fun and I must go back to learning it soon. Three months in French Polynesia and the only sentence I can put together is, "Est-ce que vous avez quelque chose pour diarrhée?" ("Do you have something for diarrhea?"). We find ourselves saying greetings and using expressions of gratitude from the previous country we visited. Vanuatu's first language is called Bislama although English is spoken as well. Bislama is an interesting one. You can get a taste of Bislama by looking at public signs: "Pablik Laebri Blong Port Vila" (Port Vila Public Library) or "Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta" (Vanuatu Cultural Center).

Here's another example in a children's story:

Storian blong Mun mo San
Long long taem bifo i bin gat tufala fren
We oli singaotem San mo Mun
Tufala i bin pleiplei tugeta altaem
Wan dei nao

The Legend of Moon and Sun
Long ago there were two friends called Sun and Moon
They always played together
One day....

That's the written form. In spoken form, one would ask, what's the communication like? It happened to be in a public bathroom that I engaged in a conversation with a local woman. After a couple of minutes into it, I realized she was speaking in Bislama and I in English. I believe the look on our faces changed as we both understood and accepted that we were speaking different languages. But interestingly, we smiled and continued on. It is true that a significant percentage of our communication is nonverbal. I appreciate the importance of a smile when interacting with people. Although languages may differ, when it comes to communicating about which fish is safe to eat in a certain bay or how to cook an unfamiliar root vegetable, it just all seems to work!


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