Languages of Mauritius
The Constitution of Mauritius mentions no official language. It only contains a statement in Article 49 that “The official language of the Assembly shall be English but any member may address the chair in French,” implying that English and French are official languages of the National Assembly (parliament). However, the majority language and lingua franca of the country is the French-based Mauritian Creole. English is used as the prime medium of instruction in public schools while French is also a common language in education and the dominant language of media. According to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, 72.7% of the Mauritians were French speakers in 2005. Mauritius shares this distinction of being both English- and French-speaking with Canada and Cameroon.
Mauritian Creole, which is spoken by an estimated 90% of the population, is considered to be the native language of the country and is used most often in informal settings. It was developed in the 18th century by slaves who used a pidgin language to communicate with each other as well as with their French masters, who did not understand the various African languages. The pidgin evolved with later generations to become a casual language. Mauritian Creole is a French-based creole due to its close ties with French pronunciation and vocabulary.
Mauritian Sign Language is the language of the deaf community.
It is only in the Parliament that the official language is English but any member of the National Assembly can still address the chair in French. English and French are generally accepted as the official languages of Mauritius and as the languages of government administration and the court business. The lingua franca is Creole.
Other languages spoken in Mauritius include Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Urdu, Odia, Chinese and Bhojpuri, which is an amalgamation of several Indian languages spoken by the early Indian settlers. Most Mauritians are at least bilingual, if not trilingual. The earliest builders brought by the French were of Indian origin, who were employed to build Port Louis, the capital. Arabic is taught in mosques around Mauritius.
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