The Republic of Vanuatu is a group of islands in the Pacific. Perhaps because back in prehistory they were inordinately fond of building tall buildings, they have the intriguing situation of having some 110 languages native to their republic. Oh, by the way, the population is 211,000 people. That means one language for every two thousand people.
As this is a rather crazy situation, the English and French empires, as they were wont to do, decided to 'help out' the poor people of Vanuatu overcome their language issue by forcing them all to speak English and French. As you know, the English and French empires were very kind.
In any case, what happened in Vanuatu, as in much of the Pacific and large parts of Africa and the Americas, was the development of a so-called 'pidgin' - a kind of simplified form of a language designed to be easy to learn and useful for practical communications (due to the nature of European activity there, the pidgin was not often used to say "What is your opinion of the epistemology of Transcendental Idealism as proposed by Immanuel Kant?" and more often used to say "Hey you! Keep digging!"). What can happen to pidgins is that they can become native languages for certain people and then become much more complex. At this point linguists call them 'creoles', though most people who speak them still use the word 'pidgin'.
The Republic of Vanuatu has three official languages now: French, English and Bislama. Bislama is the modern form of the pidgin that the Europeans (especially the English) introduced to those islands. A few examples from Wikipedia:
- "Mi wantem bia" ("I want beer")
- "Mi save toktok langwis bislama" ("I can speak Bislama")
- "Sapos yumitufala i faenem pig, yumitufala i kilim hem i ded" ("If we find a pig, we'll kill it")
- And my favourite, this Bislama description of the concept of "globalism": "wan samting wea ol kantri long world olgeta exchangem sam samting witem ol difren countries, i bekeken ol man oli go long difren ples long wol, oli fri go wok long difren ples, i ol man oli sharem ol difren idia tua bekeken" (I don't know what 'bekeken' is supposed to mean).
The 'linguist' in me tries to be as open-minded as possible and recognise the importance and practicality of pidgins. The ethnocentric within me, however, still finds pidgins damn funny.
To indulge in the second 'me', let me introduce you to the National Anthem of this fine country. It's called "Yumi, yumi, yumi", though it's not written to rhyme with "I've got love in my tummy" - it's actually pronounced "you-me" and, mathematics being good in Vanuatu, means "we". So the anthem 'translates' to "We, we, we" and has the following words (I'm sure you'll all be familiar with the melody from Vanuatu's many Olympic successes):
"Yumi, Yumi, Yumi"
Yumi, yumi, yumi i glad long talem se
Yumi, yumi, yumi ol man blong Vanuatu
God i givim ples ya long yumi,
Yumi glat tumas long hem,
Yumi strong mo yumi fri long hem,
Yumi brata evriwan!
Plante fasin blong bifo i stap,
Plante fasin blong tedei,
Be yumi i olsem wan nomo,
Hemia fasin blong yumi!
Yumi save plante wok i stap,
Long ol aelan blong yumi,
God i helpem yumi evriwan,
Hem i papa blong yumi,
Note the rather 'free' approach to rhythm and rhyme... Anyway, this 'translates' to standard English as follows:
"We, We, We"
We, We, We are happy to proclaim
We, We, We are the People of Vanuatu!
God has given us this land;
This gives us great cause for rejoicing.
We are strong, we are free in this land;
We are all brothers.
We have many traditions
And we are finding new ways.
Now we shall be one Person,
We shall be united for ever.
We know there is much work to be done
On all our islands.
God helps all of us,
He is our father
You know, to be honest, seeing as how I've never really been much for the concept of romantic nationalism in any case, I must admit that, funny as I find this national anthem, I can't really see why "Yumi brata evriwan!" should be any less stirring to the soul than, say, "And the rockets' red glare, the bombs' bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there" or "Send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign o'er us!"
In the end, if it brings tears to the eyes of these 211,000 people as they stand up before sporting events, who am I to say anything?