Because of a long history of inter island and inter village trading, many ni-Vanuatu speak numerous languages. However, over 113 distinct languages and many more dialects are found throughout the group.When Europeans arrived, a lingua franca evolved. It’s name, Bislama, derived from the Bech-der-mer (sea cucumber) traders who developed a form of pidgin English throughout the Pacific. It began as a simplified form of phonetic English, with Spanish, French and colloquialisms added for good measure. As with all languages, it soon took on a life of its own, borrowed then incorporated new words and evolved. Today, although similar to Solomon and New Guinea pidgin, it is nevertheless distinctive.
Bislama, though phonetically English with a broad accent, is grammatically simpler. Everything, including women, are spoke of in the masculan (political correctness having not yet come into play !) Being a simpler language means that complex ideas or new concepts must be described functionally. The results are descriptions and stories can be a great deal longer than if told in English.
Spoken Bislama is relatively easy to understand if the speaker is slow and enunciates the phrases. Written Bislama is also relatively easy to comprehend. However, in the same way that a Welch barman may have absolutely no trouble in understanding your spoken English, and Australian or American may have great difficulty understanding the barman, simply because of a strong accent.