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French Around the Globe: Learning about Creole Languages

In this instalment of our French Around the Globe series we’re going to take a look at creole languages. You may be familiar with creole as a language and culture found in American states like Louisiana, but creole is actually found in a variety of forms around the world. But what is creole? Is it specific to French? Where is it found? Let’s take a look. What are Creole Languages?

Creole isn’t actually specific to French, though we often think of it that way. In fact, creoles are a new language produced when an indigenous language mingles with what is often a settler or colonial language.

The translator’s blog, Tomedes, describes a creole language as: “The creole language definition is broadly accepted as: a stable natural language that has been created through the mixing of two other languages.” In other words, as Must Go Travel explains, it’s the mixing of two different languages that are unintelligible to the respective native speakers in order to make each speaker understand the other.

This initial mixing creates a ‘pidgin’ language. However, when inhabitants of a region start to use this as their first language, or native language, the result is no longer a pidgin, but takes on the status of a creole language. The Oxford English Dictionary points out that creole also refers to the culture and peoples that result in the mixing of two parent languages and cultures. The origin of the word comes from either the French - créole - or the Spanish - criollo - or the Portuguese - crioulo.

This is in contrast to something like Guernésiais, which is a patois, or dialect, of French, rather than a blending of two languages to produce a brand new one. As you may have gathered, there are many French-influenced creoles. Tomedes notes that “Creoles take the mixing of languages to the next level, with their own grammatical structures and native speakers.” There are over 100 creole languages found across the globe.