Rare Language Fact File: Ngatikese Creole

Native to:  Sapwuahfik atoll, the Caroline Islands (Micronesia)

Number of native speakers: 15-20

Spoken by:  The men of Sapwuahfik

Learn some:  Ngatikese is a creole of English and Pohnpeian, the indigenous language of the island. Many words are very recognisable to English speakers, eg ‘my name’ is ‘mai nihm’, and the numbers one to five are ‘wan, tuh, trih, foh, faif’.

Interesting facts:

  • Ngatikese is only spoken by men. Women and girls on the island can understand the language and sometimes use it to joke and make fun, but it is mainly used between men, especially at work. It can also be used to exclude Pohnpeian speakers.
  • This came about because of an English invasion of the island in 1837, when all the indigenous men were killed. Some of the crew settled on the island and the resulting language, a creole or hybrid of English and Pohnpeian developed.
  • The geography of Sapwuahfik has helped to preserve the language. While minority languages on other islands have absorbed other influences from shipping traffic and trade over the years, Sapwuahfik lies outside of these routes. Ngatikese has been described as an ‘echo of the voices of those 19th century sailors’.

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