Mauritius of course, has no language ‘indigenous’ to its shores. An island comprising entirely of immigrant peoples, who came each with their own tongues (French, Malagasy, Mozambican languages, West African languages, Bhojpuri, Tamil, Telugu, numerous other Indian languages, Chinese languages…) concocted a language that is now the vernacular – Kreol or Creole, which used French as its basis. Mauritius is not unique in having a French Creole language as its everyday language. A quick glance at a linguistic map of the world will show dozens of countries and territories scattered across the globe in which some form of French Creole is spoken – Reunion Island, Seychelles, Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Louisiana…Whilst they are all based on French, it does not mean they are mutually intelligible though some Creoles are more closely related together than others. What is of course revealing from this (incomplete) list of places in which a French Creole is spoken, is that they were all recipients of a mass influx of labourers (whether slaves, indentured labourers or both) who came from a multitude of places; in order to communicate with one another and the colonial administration, Creole was born.
Back to Mauritius – there is much debate on the status of Kreol / Creole. In the neighbouring Seychelles, Seselwa, or Seychellois Creole shares official national language status with English and French. In the Mascarene Islands (Mauritius and Reunion), this is not the case. English and French in Mauritius are the modes of instruction, are used for the rule of the law, in official documents etc. But Kreol / Creole remains what is spoken at home, on the street, in the playground and in the workplace. The national broadcaster also has a Kreol / Creole channel ‘Senn Kreol’ (Chaîne Créole) in addition to its other channels which broadcast in French, English and which play seemingly endless loops of presumably cheaply imported Indian soap operas. And in recent years, Kreol / Creole in its written form has increased (which has created lots of debate on potential loss of knowledge of English and French language skills, how to spell words in Kreol / Creole – which was born as a spoken rather than a written language etc).
Anyway, if you speak French and haven’t come across Kreol / Creole before, it’s fun to try and decipher it….