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A guide to the languages spoken on Mauritius

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Asides its stunning landscape of white-sand beaches fringed with palm trees and backed by a lush and dramatic mountainous interior, much of Mauritius’ appeal is owed to its multiculturalism.

If you are heading to Mauritius or are thinking about travelling there and are keen to converse with the locals, take a look at the following guide to the languages spoken on this truly unique island.

Mauritius is inherently bilingual. There is no national language and the island’s multi-ethnic occupants speak a multitude of different languages including French, English, French-based Creole, Mauritius Creole, Hindi, Urdu, Mandarin, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi. Most of the island’s residents are bilingual, trilingual or more, typically speaking English, French or both.

The most widely spoken language is Mauritius Creole, which is considered the native language of Mauritians. Creole is described as a mix of the parent languages of English and French, as well as African and Indian tongues. It is typically used only as a way for Mauritians to communicate amongst themselves and less so in formal contexts.

It is believed that Mauritius Creole originated in the late 18th century through the slave community on the island. Rather than being listened to and understood by the French who imprisoned them, the slaves created their own lingo, centred on a mismatch of languages, that their masters could not understand. As the years went by, the slaves’ dialect transpired into a language of its own.

Useful Creole phrases

While many Mauritians can speak English, speaking a few Creole words and phrases will definitely impress the local people and show that you’ve done your homework!

Similar to bonjour in French, ‘bonzur’ means hi in Creole. Goodbye shouldn’t be difficult to remember as in Mauritius Creole is simply bye. Merci is thank-you, ki-fer is why and kan is when.

If you need to find a hotel on Mauritius and want to practice your best Creole, the word for hotel is an easy-to-remember lotel. Ki ou non? is what’s your name? Mo pas compran means I don’t understand and how are you translates as ki many’r?

Following Creole, French is the most widespread language on the island, derived predominantly from the island’s close-knit history with the French. Unlike Creole, French is used as a formal language and is spoken in schools, for business transactions and other more formal occasions. French is also the most dominant language in the media on Mauritius, with news outlets and newspapers principally communicating in French.

Another popular dialect on Mauritius is Bhojpuri, an Indo-Aryan language that is spoken in north-eastern India, as well as the Terai region of Nepal. Bhojpuri is becoming more widely spoken around the world, so much so that films spoken in the language are becoming more regular features in cinemas across India, with such movies enjoying larger budgets.  It is estimated that around 5.3% of Mauritians speak Bhojpuri.

Experiencing Mauritius’ multiculturalism and incredible history that has seen a multitude of ethnicities arrive and settle on its lush and fertile lands over the years, is one of the many pleasures of visiting this beautiful island. As is mingling with the friendly locals, who would be more than happy to hear you attempt to tackle their language.

If you’re planning a holiday to the thrilling and enchanting island of Mauritius, then let the Mauritius Holiday Experts find you the top hotels and travel packages. Get in touch with our friendly team of Mauritius experts today to secure the best accommodation and deals for the right price. All you’ll need to do is to remember to pack your phrase book. Or several!

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