A Quick Guide To The Language Of Bislama

13th November 2018


Known for its picturesque natural beauty, friendly locals and fascinating cultural history, Vanuatu is a holiday favourite. Although what many visitors to Vanuatu are unaware of, is that the country has the highest language density per capital in the world! That’s right, there are over 110 different languages circulating throughout the islands. It is estimated that each island in Vanuatu speaks around 24 different languages, now that’s a lot to learn!

But don’t stress, many Vanuatu locals are familiar with English, in fact their main language, Bislama' was derived from a form of pidgin English spoken by sea cucumber traders. So if you want to brush up on your language skills before you visit the amazing Vanuatu, read on to discover some common phrases that are used in most sentences.

Blong: = belong, used in reference to any noun with a possessive relationship to other nouns.

Example: Pikikini blong mi = child belong me (my child)

pikinini blong kanu = pikinini (the outrigger) belonging to the canoe

Laet blong trak = light belong truck, a light on a truck

finga blong tri = finger belong tree, branches of a tree

bras blong tut = brush belong tooth (toothbrush)

Long: = from, to, in, on; associated with something but not in possessive sense.

Example: Pikinini i go long skul = pikinini he go to school

truk i kam long hotel = vehicle he come from (a/the) hotel

tri i foldaon long trak = tree he fall down on (the) vehicle

Object groupings are simplified, therefore all motorised vehicles are truks, all birds are pidjins, etc. To distinguish the difference, relationship to size/environment or a description is used.

Example: bigfala trak = big fella truck (large truck)

smol trak = small car

trak blong doti = truck belong dirty (garbage truck)

pidgin blong solwota = bird belonging to the saltwater, eg tern, pelican, duck etc.

pidjin blong bus = all birds belonging to the bush

kaofis = cow fish (dugong)

manfis = man fish (dolphin)

Fis i gat naef long tel blong hem = fish he got knife on tail belong him (surgeon fish)

Personal pronouns are also simplified: I, me, myself, becomes simply mi.

Example: Mi go long skul = I go to school

Trak blong mi = my vehicle

mi wan nomo mi go long truk = I went by myself in the vehicle.