Good Questions…

A friend has asked a few questions about my last blog, so I thought I’d answer them in case anyone else out there is wondering. By the way, feel free to send questions and I’ll be glad to try and answer them – well, at least things I know about of course.

1) Who wrote the last blog – Tim or myself? Me – Martha. I write most of the blogs and if Tim writes one we make sure we make that clear. Generally, I’m the ‘idea girl’ and Tim edits.

2) Pijin. Isn’t that spoken other places?

Yes, there are many ‘pijin’ languages spoken around the world. From a linguistic definition, ‘pijin’ is a common language that develops to allow people from different language groups to communicate. As such, for most people it is a second language. When children start speaking a pijin language as their first language, it then becomes a ‘creole’ language.

Around the Pacific, there are various pijin languages and they have an interesting history. Back in the 19th century the sugar cane industry in Australia needed laborers, so ships were sent around the Pacific Islands to ‘recruit’ laborers, a practice called ‘blackbirding’. Some islanders were hired to go to Australia, while others were taken by force.

Because this labor force on the sugar plantations came from many different places and spoke various languages, communication was a challenge. Foreman tried giving orders in simple English. The laborers communicated with each other in a similar way, and what resulted was a pijin language – based largely on an English vocabulary, but with a grammar structure that reflected Melanesian languages.

When the laborers returned to their homelands, they carried pijin with them. Later when more westerners came to these islands, the pijin speakers were the ones who were able to communicate with the outsiders. Speaking pijin opened doors for communication and employment with the colonialists.

Today in Papua New Guinea they speak, ‘Tok Pisin’ and in Vanuatu to our south they speak ‘Bislama’. These pijin languages are similar to Solomon Islands Pijin and there is some overlap in vocabulary, but each is distinctive.

Here in the Solomons where there are more than 60 languages spoken, pijin is an important tool for communication and most people speak it. You hear it spoken by the highly educated as well as illiterates and on the street, in homes and on the radio. Both English and Solomon Islands Pijin are legal languages in courts of law and in Parliament. While it is widely spoken, it has not always been accepted as a written language.

We are beginning to see a change in this attitude toward written Solomon Islands Pijin for which we are grateful. Although our first choice is to see people have God’s Word in their first language, many languages do not yet have Scripture in their language or only have the New Testament. The Solomon Islands Pijin Bible will give Solomon Islanders access to God’s Word in a language which is more familiar than English for most.