Ki manier? [How are you?]
A brief history of Mauritius Mauritius Island, discovered by the Arabs who named it Dina Arobi, was later occupied by the Dutch who in turn named it after their then prince Maurice Van Nassau. They left the island following serious epidemics. French took possession of the island and introduced slaves from Madagascar, Mozambique and Goree Island.
In 1810, the British captured the island and following the abolition of slavery, indentured labourers from different parts of India and China settled in Mauritius. Four decades after Mauritius gained its independence, the government encouraged foreign investment and an inflow of foreign labour further diversified the human scape.
Languages spoken in Mauritius
The mother tongue of native Mauritians is the Mauritian Creole. Creole started as a common dialect for the early settlers and drives its origin from French, English, African languages and Hindi. It is widely spoken and at times, it can even be heard in the Parliament though English is considered as the official language. Ayo!* Creole is a melodious, easy, straightforward, loud and laden with images and colours and truly reflects the island people’s attitude. For a century or so, it was not recognised as a language as there was no defined standard for its written form until recently established. Creole has been introduced lately in some schools and as a teaching medium. Creole is spoken in homes, among friends and holds a special identity. Its dying cousin, bhojpuri, which is a hindi dialect which used to be commonly spoken among elders in most rural communities, is fading.
Many visitors are surprised by the predominance of the French language in Mauritius and do not understand why English does not hold that place. Actually, French seems to be the language that is ‘politically correct’ and is strongly linked to status. To humbly brag one’s position or social background, French is employed in social events, in the media and in chic places like hotels, boutiques and with other people that seem to be from a particular class. English is not so commonly spoken among Mauritians, except in the parliament where it is highly tinted by Creole and French.
Let’s call it Mauritian English. Interestingly all subjects and workbooks at school are in English but only a handful of learners speak English fluently. In some way or another, many Mauritians can communicate in English. Tamil, Marathi, Chinese, Telugu and Urdu are also taught in public schools.There is an increasing number of English speakers with the growing expat community among whom we can also hear Russian and Spanish. *Ayo is an onomatopoeia used in various circumstances to express surprise, disappointment, joy and even sadness.
A.V-TAYER -December 2017.Mauritius.
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