Dialect of Barbados
What Is Bajan Dialect?
While informal settings, British English is both the spoken and written the 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 the Bajan dialect, or quite simply “Bajan.”
Bajan dialect is a slang version of standard English, or a simplified pidgin English, mixed with very distinctive ‘Bajanisms’ that are unique to the island. Barbadians speak with an accent best described as a combination of the influences of both African and British languages.
Bajans speak in their native dialect using words in a colourful, expressive, fast-paced manner. The Bajan dialect can be a bit tricky to follow at times, especially for visitors to the island. To add to this, each individual speaks their personalized version of the dialect, and new words and expressions are added continuously and accepted as part of the everyday vocabulary of Barbados.
Nevertheless, the Bajan dialect is understood by Bajans and honorary Bajans all over the world and is spoken proudly and freely island-wide
How Is It Spoken?
Firstly, in the Bajan dialect, the sound of ‘the’ is pronounced as a ‘d‘ sound. For example, “that” becomes “dat.” ‘This’ is marked ‘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 the Bajan dialect is that it’s mainly a spoken language and has no standardization 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 instance, “happen” rather than “happened.” “Wha” rather than “what,” lead to the phrase “Wha happen?” as opposed to “what happened?“.
Bajans also seldom use the word “very.” Instead, the word that “very” would be referring to is just repeated. For example, “the sun is scorching hot today!” becomes ‘de sun is hot, hot, hot!‘ in the 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. Being commonly used all over the island, you usually can’t go without hearing this mentioned in any conversation with a local Bajan.
Yuh Wanna Speak Like A True Bajan?
The Bajan dialect contains endless island-specific and often funny sayings and phrases. 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 – Jokes.
Tip: Remember, if in doubt, 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