The official language of Mauritius is English. However the main language spoken on the island is Creole, a language based on French.
In addition the different ethnic groups speak such languages as Chinese and Hindi. Other languages spoken by smaller numbers include: Tamil, Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bhojpuri and Mandarin
What’s a Creole?
When people of different native languages come into contact and develop a simple mode of communication that is based on both languages, the product is known as a pidgin. Once this ‘neo-language’ has become established to the point where it possesses a defined grammatical structure and writing system, and children learn it as a first language, it becomes a Creole.
The Creole of Mauritius is a blend of French and an assortment of African languages.
It’s said that when Mauritians have a community meeting, they speak Creole, take minutes in English and discuss the outcome with government in French. The official languages of Mauritius are French and English. English is used mainly in government and business. French is the spoken languages in educated and cultural circles, and is used in newspapers and magazines. You’ll probably find that most people will first speak to you in French and only switch to English once they realize you’re an English speaker.
Creole derives from French and has similarities with Creoles spoken elsewhere. Ironically, the Creole spoken in Mauritius and Seychelles is more comprehensible to French people than that of Reunion, even though Reunion itself is thoroughly French.
Most Indo-Mauritians speak Bhojpuri, derived from a Bihari dialect of Hindi. There are major differences between the pronunciation and usage of Creole and standard French, but if you don’t speak French at all, you’re doubly disadvantaged.
Parlez Creole/ Speak Creole, by Rose Hill, is a phrasebook in French and English. For Mauritian Creole starters, you might like to try the following phrases:
How are you?
Mon byen, mersi.
I don’t understand.
Mo pas comprend.
Do you have…?