A guide to Pidgin English

Pidgin English is a non-specific name used to refer to any of the many Pidgin languages derived from English. Pidgins that are spoken as first languages are called creoles.

Formed from numerous languages and influences, Pidgin is a wide term covering a range of regional hybrids, which evolved through historical events such as the spread of empires, settlement, migration and international trade.

Found in Africa (West African Pidgins include Nigerian Pidgin, Cameroonian Pidgin, Sierra Leone Krio), Indonesia (Tok Pisin, spoken in Papua New Guinea), parts of Asia and the Caribbean.

pidgin english guide

West African Pidgin English also known as Guinea Coast Creole English is a West African creole language lexified by pidgin English and local African languages.

It originated as a language of commerce between British and African slave traders during the period of the Atlantic slave trade. As of 2017, about 75 million people in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Equatorial Guinea use the language.

History of Pidgin English in West Africa

West African Pidgin English was the lingua franca, or language of commerce, spoken along the West African coast during the period of the Atlantic slave trade. Portuguese traders were the first Europeans to trade in West Africa in the 15th century.

Later, as British slave merchants came to dominate the slave trade, they and local African traders developed this language in the coastal areas in order to facilitate their commercial exchanges, but it quickly spread up the river systems into the West African interior because of its value as a trade language among Africans of different tribes.

Later in its history, this useful trading language was adopted as a native language by new communities of Africans and mixed-race people living in coastal slave trading bases such as James Island, Bunce Island, Elmina Castle, Cape Coast Castle and Anomabu.

At that point, it became a creole language. Some scholars call this language “West African Pidgin English” to emphasize its role as a lingua franca pidgin used for trading. Others call it “Guinea Coast Creole English” to emphasize its role as a creole native language spoken in and around the coastal slave castles and slave trading centers by people permanently based there.

pidgin english
Not everyone is a fan of Pidgin English

Examples of Pidgin English and how it translates to English

Sierra Leone Krio :
Dem dey go for go it res — They are going there to eat rice

Ghanaian/Nigerian Pidgin English :
Dem dey go chop rais — They are going there to eat rice

Cameroonian Pidgin English :
Dey di go for go chop rice — They are going there to eat rice

Nigerian Pidgin English and translations

1.”you sabi do am?” means “do you know how to do it?”

2. “Me a go tell dem” (I’m going to tell them) and “make we” (let us).

3. How Bodi? / How You Dey? – How are you doing today?

4. How Far? – Hey, Hi

5. Wetin? – What?

6.  I no no – I don’t know

7. I no sabi – I don’t understand

8. I dey fine – I’m fine. I’m doing well

9.  Wetin dey happen? – What’s going on? What’s happening?

10. Wahala – Problem/Trouble. Example – Why you dey give me wahala? Which means why are you giving me so many problems?

11. Comot! – Get out of here!

12. Comot for road – Make way

13. Dem send you? – Have you been sent to torment me?

14. Gi mi – Give it to me.

15. K-leg – Questionable.Your story get k-leg! Which means your story or gist sounds suspect or exaggerated.

16. I Wan Chop – I want to eat

17. Come chop – Come and eat

18. Abeg! No waste my time!; Which means Please! Don’t waste my time!

19. Make you no vex me! ; Which means “Don’t upset me!”

20. I no gree – I don’t agree, I disagree

21. Abi? – Isn’t it?

23. That man be wayo; which means “that man is a fraud!”

22. Na so? – Is that so?

23. Area boys – Street-smart young men that loiter around neighborhoods.

24. “God don butta my bread” which means God has answered my prayers

25. Go slow – Traffic jam

26. I go land you slap – I will slap you!

27. Listen well well – Pay attention