July 09, 2004

Mo Kontan Monne Zwin U, Moris

One of the most amazing things about Mauritius is experiencing the local French Creole. Like the Creoles found in the French Caribbean, Mauritian Creole evolved during the 18th and 19th centuries as slaves adopted French and incorporated African words and grammar. Over time, the Mauritian Creole also took on a certain number of English words, as well as elements of Malagasy and Indian languages.

Today, Kreol Morisyen (Mauritian Creole) is the mother tongue of most Mauritians, even though French and English are the official languages of business and government respectively. But in everyday convesations, Creole is the language of choice. It's been fascinating watching Indian and Chinese Mauritians speaking it, given the fact I'm so used to hearing them speak Hindi, Tamil, Cantonese or what have you in other countries. It helps give Mauritius a particularly Caribbean flair to it.

So what does Creole look like? Here are a few examples, shown with French and English translations:

    Bonzour, ki manyèr ?
    French: Bonjours, comment ça va ?
    English: Hello, how are you ?

    Si ouplé.
    French: S'il vous plaît.
    English: Please.

    Mo kontan monne zwin u.
    French: Enchanté de vous rencontrer.
    English: Nice to meet you.

    Mo nom li Andy.
    French: Je m'appelle Andy.
    English: My name is Andy.

    Si la mer ti a bwi, pwason ti a kwi.
    French: Si la mer bouillait, les poissons cuiraient.
    English: If the sea was boiling, the fish would cook.

While checking email yesterday, I sat next to a Mauritian man who was emailing colleagues. Glancing over his shoulder, I could see he was mixing Creole with English and Hindi all in the same sentence. It's quite amazing watching people mix languages so fluidly; it's so different from the US, where our penchant for being an immigration melting pot hasn't led to English becoming a linguistic melting pot.... -andy

Posted by acarvin at July 9, 2004 02:28 AM | TrackBack

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