Dialect of Barbados
What Is Bajan Dialect?
While in formal settings, British English is both the spoken and written official language of Barbados, more casual settings see Barbadians speak a unique dialect like no other.
The local language of Barbados is often referred to as Bajan dialect, or quite simply ‘Bajan’.
Bajan dialect is a slang version of broken standard English, or a simplified pidgin English, mixed with very distinctive ‘Bajanisms’ that are unique to the island. Barbadians also speak with an accent best described as a combination of the influences of both the African and British languages.
Bajans speak in their native dialect using words in a colourful, expressive, fast-paced manner. This means that Bajan can be a bit tricky to follow at times, especially for visitors to the island. To add to this, each individual speaks their own personalised version of the dialect and new words and expressions are constantly added and accepted as part of the common vocabulary of Barbados.
Nevertheless, Bajan dialect spoken proudly and freely island-wide, and is understood by Bajans and honorary Bajans all over the world.
How Is It Spoken?
Firstly, in Bajan dialect the sound of ‘th‘ is pronounced as a ‘d‘ sound. For example, ‘that’ becomes ‘dat’, ‘this’ is pronounced ‘dis’, ‘the’ is spoken as ‘de’, and so on.
Individual words also tend to have multiple meanings – ‘dis’ means ‘this’, as well as to disrespect or to fail to acknowledge someone or something.
What’s interesting about Bajan dialect is that it’s mainly a spoken language and has no standardisation of its written form. Therefore, words and sentences are generally spelled as they are pronounced, and don’t forget to allow for the accent!
As a consequence, Bajan words are commonly shortened versions of their original form. For example ‘ting‘ refers to ‘thing‘. Therefore, full sentences also often flow into one long word. For example ‘happen’ rather than ‘happened’ and ‘wha’ rather than ‘what’, lead to the phrase ‘whahappen?‘ as opposed to ‘what happened?‘.
Bajans also seldom use the word ‘very’. Instead, the word that ‘very’ would be referring to is simply just repeated. For example, ‘the sun is very hot today!’ becomes ‘de sun is hot, hot, hot!‘ in Bajan dialect.
Another Bajan dialect peculiarity is the use of the words ‘she‘ and ‘he‘ to replace the words ‘her‘ and ‘him‘. For example, ‘pass de drink to she’ means ‘pass her the drink’, and so on. This is very commonly used all over the island and you normally can’t go without hearing this mentioned in any conversation with a local Bajan.
Yuh Wanna Spek Like A True Bajan?
The Bajan dialect contains endless island-specific and often comical sayings and phrases. Simply read through our selection of distinctive ‘Bajanisms’ and you’ll be speaking like an honorary Bajan in no time!
For a humorous rundown of more Bajan sayings and phrases unique to our island culture, please read our Ya Know Ya is a Bajan When
Tip: Remember, if in doubt, just ask a local – they’ll be more than happy to give you some insider tips and tricks for speaking like a Bajan and will appreciate your enthusiasm to join in the fun of Bajan culture at its finest!
By: Brett Callaghan